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Magnolia Bridge Replacement Project

From The Seattle Times:
Magnolia settles on bridge plan
03/28/06

MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES
After years of public meetings and analysis by the Seattle Department of Transportation, a replacement alternative for the Magnolia Bridge has been approved by Mayor Greg Nickels. The cost of the new bridge is estimated at $164 million and construction is expected to take nearly three years.
By Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times staff reporter

There still isn't any money to build it, but the city has chosen an alignment to replace the earthquake-damaged Magnolia Bridge.

The winner is Alternative A, which will be built on the same route as the existing bridge and could force the detour of Magnolia traffic for up to two years.

Kirk Jones, project manager, said the decision came down to two alternatives; the other would have been built north of the existing bridge with new ramps to connect it with 15th Avenue West.

That alternative was the most expensive and opposed by many in the business community. But it would have had the shortest bridge-closure time.

The Magnolia neighborhood preferred Alternative A.

"This maintains the status quo for noise impacts and is the shortest bridge length," said Lindsay Brown, former president of the Magnolia Community Club. "We feel it's the least intrusive on the environment."

The alternative was also supported by the Port of Seattle, whose commission passed a resolution backing that alignment.

Replacing the bridge is expected to take nearly three years; the city hopes to begin construction in 2009 if it can find the money. The bridge, damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, was closed for several months, creating huge traffic jams in the neighborhood.

The cost of the new bridge is estimated at $164 million, but the city has only $10 million in design funding. Jones said now that an alignment has been chosen, the city can pursue federal grant money and state bridge money and may include it on a proposed city transportation funding package that Mayor Greg Nickels plans to put before voters in November.

Jones said the city will also be looking to the Port for help, as well as at BNSF Railway. He said the railroad built a portion of the existing bridge in 1929 and signed a contract with the city that it would maintain it and eventually replace it. That contract was signed in 1929, said Jones.

Could it still be enforced? "It's a contract, a signed contract," he said. "We're starting discussions now."

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said, "We're looking into the matter further."

The city is talking with the Port about building a temporary detour route across Port property. "We've started discussions with using Port property for a temporary road," said Port spokesman David Schaefer. "It probably will work with our long-term plans, but we haven't agreed to anything."

The bridge carries 20,000 vehicles a day and is one of three routes to Magnolia. The others are West Dravus Street and West Emerson Street near Fishermen's Terminal.

Jones said Alternative A originally was going to be built south of the existing bridge, but, by shifting it to the existing alignment, the city could save $25 million in right-of-way costs. Only one business, a storage facility for Anthony's Seafood, may have to be moved or a new access ramp built.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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