Montlake Lid community design review: High vs low ramps & usable park space

Area of the future 520 Montlake Lid in Seattle. Image: Montlaker

WSDOT has one last public meeting for the Montlake Lid next month (details TBA) before it wraps up its community design process and confirms its design intention to Olympia. Why is this important? WSDOT has applied for a $320 million federal loan to construct half of the west approach from the new floating bridge to Montlake Blvd, starting in 2014. The baby steps approach to replacing $4.65 billion worth of 520 highway means that whatever concrete is poured in 2014 will be the first stone cast in an overall plan that may take many years to fund and build, but that is being decided upon right now. 

Even for those who agree that WSDOT’s Montlake Lid design is a veiled reincarnation of the R.H. Thomson Arboretum Interchange (image here), reality requires informed community involvement in the design process to get the best results. So here goes.

The most critical issue affecting the Montlake Lid is the configuration of the access ramps on its east side. The “Baseline” plan has them ramping up and landing on top of the lid, as seen in this perspective view:

Baseline plan with ramps landing high on the lid. Image: WSDOT

Doing this creates four ramp lanes running along the entire north side of the lid, resulting in two open spaces separated by 24th Ave (used for both freeway and McCurdy Park access). Here is the plan view:

“Baseline” plan with eastern ramps landing high on lid and continuing along its north side. Image: WSDOT

A second “Option A” plan keeps these access ramps down low when they meet the east Montlake portal. This is the Option A perspective view:

Option A plan with low ramps meeting the eastern portal. Image: WSDOT

The Option A result for the east shoreline is an improved view above, but more shadowed dark space under the freeway. The bigger impact however is on top of the lid: keeping the ramps low means they slope up in a trench toward 24th that carves the eastern half in two, creating a horseshoe of open space. Here is the plan view:

Montlake Lid “Option A” plan. Image: WSDOT

The resulting eastern horseshoe is awkward from a usability standpoint, with narrow bands of space separated by a freeway trench. Note that a second trench emerges between 24th and Montlake Blvd for westbound traffic going north toward the Montlake Bridge. A positive effect is the northeastern corner would look out over the general purpose off-ramps (held low) for an improved view to the north. This plan also precludes access to McCurdy Park (and the planned stormwater facility) from 24th Ave, which instead would be along Hamlin and Shelby Streets.

These are two very different designs with big impacts on the character and usability of the lid. This is a start, but there are many other pros and cons to understand. The Community Club has arranged for WSDOT’s large presentation drawings to be put on display at Montlake Community Center this Tuesday and Thursday, 7-9pm. MCC Board members will be available to answer questions, gather feedback and relay to WSDOT’s design team the ideas that work best for the neighborhood.

One thought on “Montlake Lid community design review: High vs low ramps & usable park space

  1. Pingback: Montlake Lid community design: Bicycles, transit and the Canal Reserve | montlaker

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