Good and bad in the new West Approach Bridge North

West Approach Bridge North plan. Image: WSDOT

West Approach Bridge North plan. Click for larger view. Image: WSDOT

WSDOT rolled out plans for the new 520 West Approach Bridge North (WABN) tonight in Bellevue ahead of a public open house at St Demetrios Church tomorrow. The bridge will be the first step in replacing SR-520 in Seattle, connecting the new 6-lane floating bridge to Montlake Blvd — scheduled for completion in 2016.

The ‘N’ in WABN means this is only the north half of the new approach. The south half, like the rest of the Seattle side, remains unfunded. WSDOT plans to keep the existing west approach (for eastbound traffic) until the state finds another $1.4 billion for the Portage Bay Bridge, lids and… WABS.

West Approach Bridge. Image: WSDOT

Image: WSDOT

The display boards for the WABN open house are now available online. Here’s a preview…


New 520 regional trail included with WABN. Image: WSDOT

The Good:

  • The bridge includes a 14′ wide regional trail across Lake Washington, with belvedere viewing platforms, cable railings to maintain water views, and — a freakin’ path across the lake! 
  • The regional trail will follow the Lake Washington Blvd off-ramp and connect to a new 16′ wide bicycle and pedestrian path on the 24th Ave (ex-MOHAI) overpass.
  • A new path across the Canal Reserve area* will extend the regional trail to Montlake Blvd.
  • The flyer stop will be kept and improved during the WABN phase (its days are numbered though).

The Bad:

  • Vehicles using the new off-ramp will turn across the well-used Lake Washington bike route at 24th Ave. Mixing bikes and pedestrians with stressed out freeway drivers is a bad idea. However, this is still a solvable problem, so long as WSDOT and SDOT adopt the All-Ages-and-Abilities spirit written into the City’s 520 resolution passed yesterday, and come up with something clever.
  • Since we’re getting half the WAB, we’re also getting half of its new 10′ high underbridge area along the east Montlake shoreline — accessible from McCurdy Park to the north but bounded by the existing at-grade freeway to the south. This underbridge area will be a world class camp site.
  • This $300 million WABN phase does little to improve walking, biking and traffic impacts along Montlake Blvd, especially its west side. Weak sauce. On the other hand, traffic volumes are not expected to change much during this WABN phase:

Expecting carmageddon? WSDOT’s not. This diagram shows the net change in traffic patterns (in vehicles-per-hour) expected from the WABN plan. Click for a larger view. Image: WSDOT.

West Approach Bridge North Public Open House — Wednesday, February 6th — 4:30-7:30pm — St Demetrios Church

*Confidential to WSDOT: Don’t be jerks — preserve the urban farm and chicken coop that exists here.

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