520 Bridge pontoon overruns hit $81 million, more to come

WSDOT has released cost figures for repairs and design changes to the first pontoons built for the new 520 Bridge. The bill? $81 million. So far.

From The Seattle Times:

The state’s costs are $9.9 million to fix damage to the first batch, when a poorly designed corner section broke apart at Grays Harbor; another $48.8 million to seal cracks in the first batch, including the drydock work; and $22.4 million for extra work needed to strengthen the second batch. Construction is now under way on the third of six batches at Grays Harbor.

The overruns will be paid to contractor Kiewit-General through the project’s risk reserve fund (a sort of rainy day budget provision) which currently stands at $100 million after the charges announced today. Given that the change orders for the cycle 2 pontoons in the Aberdeen casting basin were $22 million, adding similar work for cycles 3-6 could approach draining the remaining reserve. Those cost figures will be finalized later this year.

With the pontoon repairs now well under way, WSDOT expects the new floating bridge to open in late-2015 or early-2016.

520 weekend closure comes with wicked I-405 twist + Falcon maintenance

20130712-065401.jpgImages: WSDOT Flickr stream

The 520 Bridge will close this weekend for its annual inspection and maintenance, from 11pm Friday to 5am Monday, as has become routine during 520 replacement construction over the past few years. But this won’t be a typical weekend shutdown. Crews will also close the northbound lanes of I-405 through Bellevue, complicating things for drivers detouring around Lake Washington.

Ouch. You’ve been warned.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said WSDOT Northwest Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “But combining it in one weekend helps reduce the number of closures we need this summer. We also want to avoid conflicts with special events like Seafair, the Bite of Seattle and the Bellevue Arts Festival.”

On northbound I-405, crews will replace all the concrete panels in the two left lanes between Southeast Eighth and Main streets. These panels – which stretch the length of a dozen football fields – are failing. Crews will also tear out and replace panels in many other locations. Panels in the two right lanes will be repaired later this summer.

On SR 520, bridge maintenance crews will inspect the floating bridge. This annual inspection includes checks of the electrical system and drawspan machinery. Crews will also tackle repair and maintenance tasks such as concrete and expansion joint repair. Eastside Transit and HOV project construction crews will take advantage of the closure to install an 11-foot-diameter, fish-friendly culvert beneath all lanes of SR 520 just west of I-405 and requires a multi-day closure to complete.

In other bridge news, state biologists recently climbed onto the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge to visit the peregrine falcon nest and tag this year’s babies. The falcons keep away pigeons and their paint eating poop which saves maintenance costs, so there.


More freeway falcon photos here.

Nighttime rail deliveries to UW Station set for July 8th-14th

Images: Sound Transit Flickr feed

Sound Transit construction crews are ready to lay tracks through the U-Link light rail tunnel under Montlake after installing rails from Capitol Hill Station to Downtown over the spring. Starting Monday, July 8th trucks carrying 60′ steel rails will begin a week of nighttime deliveries to UW Station. Sound Transit says to expect a bit more activity and noise around the job site than usual, as the rails are off-loaded and lowered into the station pit. From ST:

The trucks carrying 60’ lengths of rail will approach the construction site from the south via I-5 north, to SR520 and then to Montlake Blvd. After the delivery is complete, the rail will be lowered by crane into the station box where it will be welded and then installed in each tunnel.

To minimize traffic impacts from these large vehicles, delivery will take place during the nighttime hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. Sound Transit’s contractor has obtained a temporary noise variance from the City of Seattle in order to deliver and unload the rail. What to expect during this work:

  • Increased truck activity near the site. There will be approximately 6 trucks delivering rail to the site per hour.
  • Intermittent noise from trucks entering the site and from crane operations.
  • Flashing lights from trucks.

You are always invited to contact me with any questions at 206-398-5300 or ulink@soundtransit.org. For issues that need immediate attention after normal business hours, call Sound Transit’s 24-hour Construction Hotline at (888) 298-2395.

The $1.9 billion U-Link light rail project remains under budget and on time for its scheduled opening in late-2016. Here’s to hoping crews take care and grind those welded rail joints nice and smooth

Livable Streets Mayoral Forum comes to Madison Valley, Monday July 1

How will the next Seattle mayor help solve this mess? Image: Central Seattle Greenways via WSDOT

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has put together a Livable Streets forum for Seattle’s candidates for mayor on Monday, July 1st. The event will be 90 minutes of political talk about issues facing city streets: pedestrian safety, the Bicycle Master Plan, safe routes to school, access to transit, greenery, pavement and potholes. Eight candidates are expected to attend: Mike McGinn, Peter Steinbrueck, Bruce Harrell, Ed Murray, Charlie Staadecker, Kate Martin, Joey Gray and Mary Martin.

Coming on the heels of last week’s Bicycle Urbanism Symposium and the mixed reviews bike expert John Pucher gave Seattle streets, it will be interesting to hear how the candidates respond. Pucher praised the Seattle greenway movement — optimizing low-traffic residential streets for walking and biking — but said certain arterial streets were worse than anything in Manhattan. Knowing the candidates’ attitudes toward street improvements will help Montlake residents figure out who best to lead the city through 520 replacement planning, including the $300 million Montlake Lid.

Livable Streets Mayoral Forum — Monday, July 1st — 7-8:30pm — MLK Family, Arts, Mentoring, and Enrichment Community Center, 3201 E Republican St — RSVP here

Bicycle valet available!

Drunk driver pleads guilty in fatal wrong way crash

Michael Robertson pleaded guilty today to vehicular homicide in the April 4th wrong way crash that killed Seattle’s Morgan Williams, according to KIRO. Police found Robertson at the scene inside his SUV with a bottle of whiskey on the front seat.

Robertson’s attorney said he remembers nothing of the incident but that he admits responsibility for the crash, in which he u-turned on 520 near Montlake Blvd and slammed head on into William’s sedan at a high rate of speed. Williams’ family expressed relief at today’s hearing:

Prosecutors recommend a 126-month sentence, including an extra 24 months for a previous DUI violation in Tacoma. Sentencing is expected July 26th.

Construction for 520 ‘West Connection Bridge’ off Madison Park set for next month

The West Connection Bridge. Image: WSDOT

The West Connection Bridge. Image: WSDOT

How do you connect a new 6-lane floating bridge to an old 4-lane highway? That’s the challenge for the next phase of 520 construction set to begin next month — the West Connection Bridge. This will be an interim span allowing the new floating bridge to transition to the existing 520 West Approach near Madison Park.

Mowat-American A Joint Venture will build the 1,330-foot-long structure under a $22.1 million contract. Completion is expected late next summer.

WSDOT has carefully planned the 520 replacement project in phases so that each new section will function until future sections are complete. When the new floating bridge opens, it will merge its 6-new-lanes into 4-old-lanes on the Seattle side. This interim West Connection will keep traffic moving until the next phase is complete.

However, the next phase, the West Approach Bridge North (WABN), has for the moment an uncertain future. The House Transportation Budget in April sought to delay WABN’s construction start from 2014 until 2015, or until tolls are implemented across the I-90 floating bridge. The WABN phase has been unpopular in Seattle, as it would continue the new 6-lane corridor all the way to Montlake Blvd with no funding in place to complete the rest of the $1.4 billion project. Given the dire budget situation in Olympia, Seattleites are leary of a bait-and-switch leaving us with even worse traffic in Montlake.

West Connection phase (blue) with the future WABN phase (orange). Image: WSDOT

West Connection phase (blue) with the future WABN phase (orange). Image: WSDOT

The fate of WABN will be settled just as soon as a budget deal is decided in Olympia (next week?). And while the West Connection is expected to finish next summer, delays with the floating bridge pontoons may push its completion into 2015.

To learn more about the project and its parts and pieces, you can talk directly with WSDOT folks at a series of public outreach events in Seattle next week:

  • West side drop-in event: 5-7 p.m., Monday, June 24 — Montlake Branch, Seattle Public Library, 2401 24th Avenue East
  • West Connection Bridge Project pre-construction meeting: 4:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, June 26 — Madison Park Pioneer Hall. 1642 43rd Avenue East
  • West side drop-in event: 12-2 p.m., Thursday, June 27 — U.W. Magnuson Health Sciences Center, Rotunda Foyer, 1959 Northeast Pacific Street

It has been a busy month for vehicles versus large stationary objects

Image: @jordanilarde

Image: @jordanilarde

June has gotten off to a real bang. There have been no less than three vehicle-versus-large-object collisions in Montlake since the beginning of the month. First, there was a June 3rd collision at the Snohomish Overpass to Hec-Ed on Montlake Blvd (above). Then early Tuesday morning, a car crashed into a house on 24th Ave E just after 1am.

The woman’s boyfriend told KIRO 7 a small animal startled her as she was behind the wheel, and she panicked, causing her to back abruptly from her driveway, through a fence, and into the house next door.

Inside the home, part of the rear bumper was visible through a large crack in the wall.  The impact scattered furniture and other belongings around the living room.  Firefighters put yellow tape across the room to keep the couple out of the area that might have been unsafe.  Neither they, nor the driver were injured.

Image: KIRO 7 News

And today, the Washington State Patrol responded to a truck collision with the Arboretum’s Wilcox Footbridge, a popular place for overheight vehicle strikes. While it appeared no one was injured, the truck’s rack and roof were destroyed.

Image: Montlaker

Image: Montlaker

The 1910 bridge seemed okay. It has seen worse, like this 2008 Garfield High School charter bus collision.

In other large-object-news, Pontoon T, one of the cracked pontoons for the new 520 Bridge, is heading off to dry dock today. Tug boats Solana and Mudcat will guide ‘T’ through the Ballard Locks around 6pm, before overnighting in Shilshole Bay. Tomorrow ‘T’ begins a 4-5 journey to Portland, OR, where it will be retrofitted with post-tensioned tendons and carbon fiber wrap to seal up its concrete cracks. More info on pontoon progress from WSDOT here.

520 Weekend closure Friday night to Monday morning

20130531-122657.jpgImage: WSDOT Flickr stream

It’s time for another weekend closure of the 520 floating bridge. The highway will close from 11pm on Friday, May 31st until 5am Monday morning — from Montlake Blvd to I-405. Getting across the lake will take extra time on I-90 so be sure to plan ahead. Crews will use this closure to divert lanes through Eastside construction zones and begin work on the westbound transit stop at Evergreen Point.

Saturday’s Opening Day for boats means Montlake Bridge will close for cars

20130503-145300.jpgImage: Seatlle P-I Collection, MOHAI

Saturday is the Opening Day of boating season and Windermere Cup regatta so the only traffic passing through Montlake will be the floating kind. The Montlake Bridge will close to vehicles from 7am 10am to 4pm as will 520’s westbound exit to Montlake Blvd. Thousands of people attend this annual event and with sun in the forecast through the weekend, a big turnout along the shores of the Ship Canal is expected.

The Windermere Cup will be Ivy League this year, as Washington hosts Cornell and Dartmouth. Races begin at 9:55 and wrap up with the Women’s and Men’s Eights just before noon. The parade of boats follows until 3pm with upwards of 900 vessels steaming out into Lake Washington.

For those with sails approaching 60′, you’ll be pleased to know that construction crews working on the new 520 Bridge have moved their barges out of the East Channel for this weekend’s boat traffic. Cruise through now, because at 11:59pm Sunday night it’s back to drawspan openings at mid-lake.

This would be a good time to remember that WSDOT provides email and text alerts for 520 drawspan openings two hours beforehand. Sign up here to avoid the traffic backups (same rules as last year: no openings from 6:30-10am and 3-7pm Monday-Friday) or risk hanging out on the bridge for up to half an hour.

Enjoy the weekend!

Update: WSDOT’s original press release has been corrected to say the Montlake Bridge will close at 10am, just as the crew races begin.

520 Bridge closed this weekend

Image: WSDOT Flickr stream

The 520 Bridge will close for weekend construction tonight at 11pm and reopen Monday, April 22nd at 5am. Prepare to take the long route across I-90 if heading to or from the Eastside this weekend. The highway will be closed from Montlake Blvd to I-405.


During the closure, crews will also install new roadway lighting and drainage near 84th Avenue Northeast and begin paving the final Evergreen Point Road roadway across the new lid. The work is weather-dependent and could be delayed in the event of inclement weather. We will keep the public informed if the closure needs to be postponed.

And news for boaters:

Boaters, set your sails: SR 520 east navigation channel will be open May 2-5 for Opening Day weekend

Opening Day of boating season is right around the corner on May 4. Boaters are encouraged to be aware of the latest conditions on Lake Washington related to SR 520 floating bridge construction. Crews are constructing the new bridge, and 11 pontoons are currently on the lake along with cofferdams, barges and other equipment.

Since spring 2012, the east navigation channel near Medina has remained closed to traffic for construction, meaning vessels over 45 feet in height must use the center drawspan to navigate through the bridge.

However, there are several 2013 boating season special dates when the east navigation channel will be open to boaters:

  • May 2 to May 5 (Opening Day of Boating Season weekend)
  • May 24 to May 26 (Memorial Day weekend)
  • July 4 (Independence Day)
  • Aug. 1 to Aug. 4 (Seafair weekend)
  • Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 (Labor Day weekend)

Also, expect more pontoons to arrive from Aberdeen soon. Another float out is expected next week — this time with water tight concrete — we hope.