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Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board

SPAB POSITION PAPER

7/11/01

SR520 (BRIDGE RECONSTRUCTION)

BACKGROUND ON WSDOT'S SR 520 EXPANSION ALTERNATIVES

Most of the Alternatives proposed by WSDOT to renew/expand the capacity of the SR 520 floating bridge and its approaches will severely impact major arterials in South Lake Union, Eastlake, and UW South Campus neighborhoods.

Here are abbreviated versions of the 8 alternatives:

All alternatives add bike/ped facilities and provide for provisions for mitigations and enhancement.

  1. No action - continue maintenance
  2. Replace and realign bridge, add bike/ped, light rail to I-90
  3. Add one HOV lane each direction, add bike/ped, realign bridge, add light rail to I-90, add HOV/bus stations to SR520.
  4. Add one HOV lane and one general purpose lane each direction, add bike/ped, realign bridge, add light rail to I-90, HOV/bus stations to SR520
  5. Add one HOV lane each direction, add bike/ped, realign bridge, add fixed guideway (rail or rubber tired high capacity transit) to SR520, assume HOV/bus on I-90 reversible lanes.
  6. Add one HOV lane and one general purpose lane in each direction, add bike/ped, realign bridge, add fixed guideway to SR520, assume HOV/bus on I-90 reversible lanes
  7. Add one HOV lane in each direction to be shared by bus rapid transit w/bus rapid transit connections, add bike/ped, realign bridge, assume HOV/bus on I-90 reversible lanes
  8. Add one HOV lane and one general purpose lane in each direction with bus rapid transit connections, add bike/ped, realign bridge, assume HOV/bus on I-90 reversible lanes.

COMMENTS ON THESE ALTERNATIVES AND THEIR IMPACTS

Except for 1 (no action) and 2 (replace as-is) NONE of these alternatives are beneficial for Seattle streets and pedestrian facilities. 3 - 8 put more cars, trucks, and buses on Seattle streets and through our intersections, I believe that 3 through 8 will entail the construction of vehicular traffic tunnels:

  1. connecting realigned Portage Bay Viaduct with N. Pacific St. at Montlake Blvd. (current entryway to Husky Stadium parking lot)
  2. connecting realigned Portage Bay Viaduct with Eastlake Ave. at Fairview Ave. (near Fred Hutchinson campus).

These tunnel plans were shown, but not connected to specific alternatives for SR520.

Clearly alternatives 3 - 8 would place additional heavy loads of traffic on all the major intersections in South Lake Union. Fairview/Mercer, Fairview/Valley, Valley/Westlake/Roy (new Roy/Aurora underpass), Eastlake/Univ. Bridge, etc. will all be heavily impacted and may require pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic grade separations.

The South Lake Union Neighborhood Planning Group has proposed, and the city has accepted, minimal intersection improvements, in accordance with the city's policy of not spending major funds on curing the Mercer Mess. The assumption is that I-5 has reached capacity in peak hours, therefore no more capacity on feeder arterials leading into I-5 is needed. A federally funded grade separation at the Fairview/Mercer intersection has been dropped in favor of landscaping. Fairview/Valley improvements will be minimal. On the plus side, a ped bridge from the Paul Allen redevelopment parking facility on the south side of Valley to the South Lake Union Park will be built by Allen.

And the Roy/Aurora undercrossing may be built which would provide a new street connection from South Lake Union to Queen Anne.

Would mitigation and enhancements include street improvements for Seattle on streets and pedestrian routes impacted by additional motor vehicles entering/exiting SR520 at Eastlake/Fairview and N. Pacific St./Montlake Blvd.?

It would be far better for pedestrians in South Lake Union and Eastlake for expanded capacity on SR520 to be done by rail or rubber tired guideway transit on its own rights of way, not more cars, buses, and trucks.

The most beneficial alternatives for Seattle which are NOT stated by Trans Lake Washington Study would add ONLY TRANSIT on its own rights of way to SR520. But since the connections for light rail to the Metro bus tunnel are much more difficult from 520 on the north and much easier from I-90 on the south, it would seem that I-90 will be the choice for light rail. To achieve light rail on I-90, the agreement between WSDOT and Mercer Island to provide an exclusive entry/exit lane to Mercer Island would need to be abrogated.

The decision as to which bridge to use for light rail is said by WSDOT staff to be made this summer.

An alternative that added Express Bus service (Bus Rapid Transit) and HOV lanes only to SR520 might be acceptable to Seattle, if the Metro bus tunnel remains accessible to buses.

A draft SPAB position follows:

SEATTLE PEDESTRIAN ADVISORY BOARD ADVISORY ON WSDOT PROPOSED MULTI-MODAL ALTERNATIVES FOR SR 520

Seattle city government should not accept additional motor vehicles on North Seattle arterials from an increased capacity SR 520.

The Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board (SPAB) foresees the need for awkward pedestrian or vehicular/pedestrian grade separations at key South Lake Union, Eastlake, and UW South Campus intersections if any of WSDOT's Trans-Lake Washington Project SR 520 Proposed Multi-Modal Alternatives 3 - 8 are adopted. These alternatives would load additional vehicles from SR 520's added HOV and general purpose lanes onto Seattle arterials and will make pedestrian routes in and around South Lake Union, Eastlake, and the UW South Campus very unfriendly.

SPAB recommends to the Mayor and City Council that the City request further WSDOT SR 520 alternatives to be developed which will emphasize increased capacity for SR 520 by adding lanes for transit on its own rights of way.

Adding Bus rapid transit (Express Bus Service) to SR 520 feeding onto semi-exclusive rights of way on Seattle arterials would be a less acceptable second choice.

SPAB recommends the acquisition of the MOHAI site and redevelopment of that site as a major commuter bus station, allowing in-city transit routes to connect with all east side bus routes utilizing SR 520.

Should additional HOV or general purpose lanes be added to SR 520, SPAB recommends that Seattle's city government require mitigation/enhancement funding for widening Seattle arterials, creating grade separations on these arterials where needed, and improving intersections in the neighborhoods most affected by additional traffic from SR 520.