North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association opposes 520 Portage Bay Bridge multi-use path

Model showing 520 freeway over the west Portage Bay shoreline, the Roanoke Lid, and the unused Seattle Prep property (left of the freeway). This model does not include the proposed regional path for bikes and pedestrians. Image: Montlaker

The North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association opposes extending the 520 regional trail along the future Portage Bay Bridge. The added bridge lane would provide a direct connection for pedestrians and bicyclists between the Roanoke Lid on Capitol Hill and the Montlake Lid near the UW campus and light rail station. In a letter to the Seattle City Council, NCHNA President Pegeen Shean explains the neighborhood’s opposition:

The North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association opposes the addition of this bike lane for several reasons.

  1. Adding a bike lane would add another 14 or 15 feet of width to a Portage Bay Bridge already 168 feet wide—more than twice as wide as today’s.
  2. It would bring the bridge structure 14 to 15 feet closer to neighboring homes, also covering and shading that much more of Portage Bay and its shoreline.
  3. A bike lane on this section of SR 520 offers no real benefit. The FEIS plan already allows bikes exiting SR 520 at Montlake to reach the Delmar Bridge via paths in local parks and marked bike lanes on local streets.

Instead of adding an additional lane to the freeway, the NCHNA supports converting the unused Seattle Prep property adjacent to the future Roanoke Lid into a park with a safe pedestrian and cycling path between Delmar Drive at the top of the hill and Boyer Ave at the bottom:

A gradual path here, navigating the natural slope of the hillside, would bring bikes up to Delmar immediately adjacent to Interlaken Park’s west entrance and the planned 10th & Delmar lid. Surrounded by properly maintained and landscaped public space, such a path would be a true plus for the neighborhoods to the south and north, for pedestrians—and for bikes.

There is wide support for developing the Seattle Prep property into a park, however, funding remains unclear since WSDOT declared it would not buy the land. It is also unlikely the city’s bicycling community will accept a surface route through challenging topography and neighborhood streets in lieu of the direct and gentle-grade route provided by the Portage Bay Bridge — at least judging from Seattle Bike Blog’s report on the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board’s meeting with WSDOT officials earlier this week. Seattle Central Greenways also has organized a petition campaign for adding a walking and biking lane to the bridge.

The Seattle City Council has backed North Capitol Hill neighbors’ efforts in the past to reduce the width of 520, resulting in WSDOT narrowing the Portage Bay Bridge lanes and shoulders to sub-standard widths (requiring a 45mph speed zone) and eliminating a proposed median planting strip. With the bridge as narrow as it can get for vehicles, the Council will have to decide if there is enough public benefit in continuing the 14-foot wide regional path to Capitol Hill — WSDOT has made it clear that local officials will decide local issues for the 520 redesign. A decision is likely before WSDOT completes the Seattle Community Design Process final report in October.

4 thoughts on “North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association opposes 520 Portage Bay Bridge multi-use path

  1. How much would it cost? How many unique bikes a day would use it? (vs someone who uses it twice a day 5 days a week).
    Lets say 10 million for mm 100 bikes a day?
    I am guessing it would be cheaper to just pay the people to stay home ;-)

    • Compared to the cost of the bridge, the trail costs nothing (probably on par with a rounding error). And given the rapidly-growing number of people biking in Seattle and King County, the potential for the trail to link to the new Eastside rail corridor trail to Redmond, etc, I’d say use will be very high. Nobody uses it today because there is no trail.

      It would cost a whole lot more to add it on later once we realize how completely ridiculous it was to exclude it when we built a whole new bridge.

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