SR 520 Bridge Program – 520 at 50

August 2013 marks the 50th birthday of the SR 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington. Throughout the month we’re taking a look back at the history of the bridge, as well as the places it connects and the people who use it.

Join in the fun!

Historic documents

Historic videos

Kristina Hardy, Aug. 30 2013

Happy 50th birthday, SR-520 Floating Bridge! You are my absolute favorite bridge to travel over! With beautiful Lake Washington and spectacular Mt. Rainier as the backdrop, you provide an unparallelled vista. Here's to many more years to come! Thank you for being here for us. :)

Anonymous, Aug. 30 2013

I remember how excited we were not to need to "drive around" the north end of the lake to get to Monroe every week end! And then there were the people trying to get the carpool rate of a dime at the toll booth by using inflatable dummies in their cars! Many memories - the drive in theater on the Bellevue side of the bridge!

Anonymous, Aug. 28 2013

In August of 1967 I had to run to Bellevue Square to try on a dress for my wedding. I had one hour to get from my office on Capitol Hill to Bellevue, try on the dress and be back to work on time. There was no anxiety, a short quick commute, no traffic, or traffic jams... Mission accomplished! Today maybe not..(I also remember how beautiful it was crossing the Lake)

David Oehler, Aug. 27 2013

My friends and I rode our bikes from our Ravenna homes to be a part of the festivities. We got there well before the crowds arrived and stationed ourselves in position to see the cutting close up. We watched as workers strung three strips of plastic ribbon across the bridge,one red, one white and one blue. I didn't know the dignitaries present at the time. I do remember that my friends and I broke the ribbons before they were cut and we held them together until after the official cutting took place. Each of us had a bit of those pieces of plastic in our pockets as we rode our bikes back home that day.

Anonymous, Aug. 23 2013

In 1980 I was meeting someone from the Eastside who told me to "come across the New Bridge." I wasn't from here, so I asked if the New Bridge had another name, which turned out to be the SR 520 Floating Bridge. I asked when the bridge was built and learned it opened in 1963 but that people were still calling it the New Bridge since it opened after I-90! Wait until the Really New Bridge opens!

Chris Warner, Aug. 22 2013

In early 1963 I was a student at the U of WA. My girlfriend at the time, now my wife, wrecked my most treasured possession a 1959 black VW pulling out of a friends house on Hunts Point. I lived on Yarrow Point and she on Evergreen Point. Well whenever I needed to get to the east side I had to take I-90, until the wreck, when my girlfriends mom let me user her Vespa scooter while my car was being repaired. I would then drive across the bridge, under construction on the Vespa. The first time the construction guys said I couldn't go but I told them I had to get to class after visiting my girlfriend. They recognized a true romance in the making and let me cross every day for about a month until the bridge opened when I had to pay tolls like everyone else, 25 cents. Well when you are only making $70 per month at 3 part time jobs and going to the UW full time and supporting yourself that is a lot of money. So I figure I was the first "civilian" to cross the bridge routinely.

@520_bridge, Aug. 20 2013

@olyhomer, Aug. 16 2013

@soundslikepuget, Aug. 16 2013

Jared Smith, Aug. 15 2013

Many stories - but a few come to mind.

I grew up on north Capitol Hill and went to Seward Elementary school as the SR 520 Bridge and I-5 connector were under construction. In 1963 I was in 2nd grade when the SR 520 Bridge was dedicated and was part of a group of school kids who made the first crossing of the Roanoke Bridge. Our group picture was put on the front page of the newspaper with a story about the overcrossing opening. Looking back, we joke that our early years at Seward School dealing with constant SR 520 and I-5 construction noise is the reason we were stunted intellectually.

The next story involves water balloons and the police: A bunch of kids were walking home from Seward Elementary on a hot day and decided to have a water balloon fight with all the kids heading home. We filled the balloons at the old Chevron gas station that was at Roanoke and Harvard. We then proceeded to toss balloons at each other racing from Roanoke Park to Seattle Prep School across the SR 520 overpass. Some of the kids got the bright idea to drop balloons onto cars below on SR 520 from the Delmar Drive overcrossing. My friend Robby and I said that was stupid and kept our balloons to throw as we got to the other side. A motorist who was hit by a balloon square on his windshield got off SR 520 at Montlake and came looking for the culprits. He saw Robby and me holding a bunch of water balloons and caught us red handed. Just then, a police car rounded the corner and we were invited into the back of the car after the angry motorist waived the officers over. We told them that we had decided not to drop our balloons onto SR 520 because it was unsafe. Needless to say, the balloons still in our hands caused significant doubt and the officers did not believe us.

The only way they would let us go was to guide them to the houses of our guilty friends and turn them in. Needless to say, we were in an ethical dilemma but broke down under pressure. The prospect of being taking to the police station was overwhelming. We had to sit in the patrol car back seat as the officers confronted our buddies who were guilty. We were surrounded by other neighborhood kids who knew we had squealed on the culprits and were teasing us as they ran around the police car. Talk about peer pressure and tension as we sat in the back seat! We were then carted home to our parents who also had problems with our “story”. I think we never recovered from the experience but still believe we did the right thing.

Little did I know I would become a highway designer years later who worked on the SR 520 program and still is very concerned about highway safety. Safety first! Then there was the 1960’s and 1970’s jumping and diving off the Foster Island area “ramps to nowhere” in the summers and the nude bathing near Foster Island which created early forms of “ramp metering” as drivers gawked at the bathers as they drove by on the Arboretum eastbound on-ramp. But that is another story (and I was only a local observer)...

Anonymous, Aug. 13, 2013

My family lived by the UW and my aunt and uncle and 2 cousins lived in Bellevue so now, with the new bridge, it was a lot closer and easier to visit them. I think the toll was just 25 cents and I think you dropped it into a little basket at the toll booth, unless you didn't have change. We would go over, or they would come visit us, almost every weekend! It was great.

@plkirsch, Aug. 9 2013

@520_bridge, Aug. 6 2013

Jim Wilke, Aug. 6, 2013

As a kid growing up in Seattle in the 1960's I watched both I-5 and the connecting SR520 Bridge being built. My family was not wealthy and so we rarely used the 520 bridge when it was completed because it had a toll on it and we could not afford it. We took the old I-90 bridge instead with its scary bulge on the east side. I was so happy when the 520 bridge was paid off so that the tolls were removed. Now, a scant 50 years later, we are paying again to use the 520 bridge, :( and again, I am using I-90 because I can't afford the tolls. This time however, they are not promising to remove the tolls when it is paid off, AND they want to toll I-90 as well. To me, this is a story with a very sad ending.

Anonymous, Aug. 5, 2013

I remember my great grandfather and I watched it being built. Every week or so we would go to the Bellevue side to see how far it had gotten, since we didn't live far. It was a big deal, being the longest floating bridge

Anonymous, Aug. 5, 2013

I have lived in Clyde Hill most of my life. I recall vividly a walk down the hill to the north and sneaking (a.k.a cutting over) a massive concrete garden that would later be call SR 520 to get to my favorite fishing hole. What a site it was. I could tell you more places we explored, but I will take the 5th so as not to be prosecuted for trespassing. Perhaps we are past the statues of limitations, but I will stop by saying the view of the lake was incredible. I can't wait for the East portal lid to be built so I can enjoy the view again.

Anonymous, Aug. 5, 2013

We were stopped for a long bridge opening, most people out of their cars enjoying the sun, when a man on a big unicycle rode by on the other side of the road.

Ross McIvor, Aug. 5, 2013

The opening of the bridge was just in time for my Dad to return to school to get his Masters and Doctorate at the UW. He was 35 years old, had 4 boys aged 5 to 12 to deal with. My mother went back to work, Dad worked part time and went to school part time. We lived less than a mile from the Bellevue Way onramp to 520 so it saved countless hours of commuting and more time with the family. Received his PhD in Microbiology six years later and taught and did immune response research at WSU until his retirement. The opening of the 520 bridge made it much easier for him to meet his goals. P.S... he was really mad at me when I came home one day with a ton of great colored material off what I now know were survey stakes during the construction of the roadway. I think the Statute of Limitations is done on that one so I'm fessing up 50 years later.