520 Bridge Progress Update

I received an update this week from WSDOT on the progress of the 520 project. The project is a big deal for the entire region – it will significantly improve the congestion situation and will make transit function vastly more effectively. For example, we expect the project to take 45 minutes out of the transit trip from Redmond to Seattle in the afternoon commute. 45 minutes.

520 Project map

For more info on the project and the timeslines you should check out the info they sent – it’s actually reasonably succinct. We expect construction to start in early 2011. Click here for the WSDOT page describing the project. You can subscribe to their updates if you want, but why would you when I forward the interesting ones to you anyway?

Some constituents in the Points Communities have raised concerns about the 84th Ave interchange and WSDOT and the cities are looking into the concerns. I’ve been able to secure agreement from WSDOT to screen the bike path so that it doesn’t visually look down into people’s yards and to have the bike lane crossing 84th be grade separated. More details to follow as we figure out exactly what will happen, though it’s pretty clear WSDOT won’t be making changes that will significantly delay the overall project.

The Seattle Times had a big article on the bridge project a few weeks ago. They quite correctly point out that we haven’t worked out all the details of the west side design and that there is still quite a bit of funding to organize.

The west side design is very politically difficult to nail down. Different groups want different things, and some of the mitigation desired costs billions of dollars. Billions we don’t have.  After a decade of “process” we have agreed on the preferred design alternative and are working with Seattle to nail down the final details. I do not expect this to be a blocking concern.

The funding is more of an issue. In the 520 workgroup last summer we voted to use tolling on the I-90 bridge to fund 520. The two bridges are part of the same transportation corridor and should be viewed as a single unit. Congestion on one bridge quickly spills over to the other, and the imposition of tolls on just one bridge is likely to lead to parking lot conditions on the other. We will need to pass legislation on this and it will be controversial. All the important things turn out to be controversial – such is the way of the world.

About the Author

I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.