Local Information

Grand opening of new SR 520 floating bridge to feature STEM-focused exhibits, food trucks, and more

Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 08:45

Steve Peer, WSDOT Communications, 425-301-2023

Fun run and bike ride bookend April 2 ribbon cutting, daylong public celebration on world’s longest floating bridge

SEATTLE – The April 2 grand opening celebration of the new State Route 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington will feature family-friendly, interactive exhibits and displays showcasing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) involved in building a floating highway.

Today, WSDOT and the two event presenting sponsors, Delta Air Lines and Microsoft, joined together on the floating bridge construction site to announce the free public activities slated for April 2.

Festivities on the new, 1.5-mile-long bridge kick off Saturday morning with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony. The bridge will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Throughout the day, visitors can stroll across the car-free roadway while stopping at a variety of interactive, STEM-focused visitor stations. Grand opening attendees will have the opportunity to explore the large floating structure on foot while enjoying the fare from local food trucks.

Gov. Jay Inslee will participate in the celebration’s historic ribbon cutting and credits local communities for making this day possible. “This vital bridge not only connects local communities,” he said, “but also brings us closer to completing much-needed SR 520 improvements all the way to I-5 made possible by last year’s Connecting Washington transportation package. This bridge is possible because our communities and people came together to see it through. The opening event will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for everyone to see this amazing structure for themselves.”
“We’re encouraging the whole family to join us and be the first to experience the longest floating bridge in the world,” says Julie Meredith, WSDOT administrator of the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program. “This is an engineering feat that we want the public to see, touch, and explore.”

The event is made possible by the support of WSDOT partner sponsors, including presenting sponsors, Delta Air Lines and Microsoft. Fifty companies have donated time, effort and funds to make the weekend fun for the entire family.

“This is a moment worth celebrating and one that a lot of people and organizations had a hand in making a reality,” said Steve Crown, Microsoft vice president and deputy general counsel. “This new bridge, the longest of its kind in the world, is a demonstration of what we can achieve when we work together, on behalf of the entire region.”

Sponsor Delta Air Lines will be on hand at the celebration to hand out passports that encourage people to stop at the bridge’s visitor stations. Participants will be eligible to win domestic and international airline tickets for two.

“Our business is transportation,” offers Mike Medeiros, Delta Air Lines vice president – Seattle. “We know it takes all forms of transportation to keep a region strong and healthy, and we are pleased to be able to take part in this momentous occasion.”

Other grand opening events
During the grand opening weekend, there are two events that require advance registration and payment:

  • Saturday morning, April 2, there will be a community fun run and walk sponsored by the Virginia Mason Heart Institute.
  • On Sunday morning, April 3, the celebration closes with the Emerald City bicycle ride that has an 8-mile and a 20-mile option. Both rides will leave from the University of Washington and cross the SR 520 bridge and back. The longer ride will continue through car-free routes of downtown Seattle, and back to the university campus. The Cascade Bicycle Club is sponsoring the ride.

Getting to the event
Participants should plan ahead for the event. The old and new floating bridges will be closed to traffic but accessible from both sides of the lake via shuttle buses. WSDOT’s event website shows the best location to catch a shuttle to get to the event. Once shuttled onto the bridge, visitors will be able to walk the entire length of the structure – either on the bridge’s westbound traffic lanes or on the adjacent regional shared-use path, which eventually will carry pedestrians and bicyclists between Seattle and the Eastside.

World’s longest floating bridge
The new SR 520 floating bridge is approximately 130 feet longer than the existing bridge and boasts a 14-foot-wide shared-use path, shoulders for disabled vehicles, and three lanes in each direction, including a transit/HOV lane. The shared-use path features five belvederes, or “bump-outs,” that give path users a place to rest and view the north side of Lake Washington.

The bridge deck is supported by 77 large pontoons connected to 58 anchors weighing as much as 450 tons each. The new bridge is more structurally sound than its predecessor, capable of resisting sustained winds up to 89 mph. The bridge height will allow watercraft with masts up to 70 feet to pass under its east navigational channel, eliminating the need for a drawspan and traffic-stopping drawspan openings for boats to pass through.

Traffic shifts to the new structure
The new SR 520 floating bridge will open to vehicle traffic in stages, using two weekend highway closures after the grand opening celebration. Once the new bridge opens to traffic, crews will decommission the old bridge and remove it from the lake, in sections.

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