SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program - News and updates

Aug. 16, 2018 | Rest of the West news

Update on upcoming Montlake Phase construction

Now that we’ve completed reconstruction of SR 520’s Eastside corridor, built a new floating bridge, and opened the West Approach Bridge North, we’re focused on building the rest of the highway’s improvements in Seattle. A lot of work remains, so to keep highway traffic flowing during construction, we will complete the work in phases.

Below are a few brief updates on the next stage of SR 520 construction: the Montlake Phase. This work, expected to start in late 2018, involves construction of a Montlake lid and improved interchange, a West Approach Bridge South for eastbound traffic, and a bicycle and pedestrian land bridge over SR 520 near the Arboretum.  

Update: Progress on Montlake neighborhood traffic-calming projects 

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is making progress on traffic-calming projects in Montlake to improve travel safety and efficiency, reduce or slow down cut-through traffic, and make it easier for people walking and biking to get around now and during SR 520 construction. Below is information on the three latest Montlake projects that were funded by WSDOT as a part of the WSDOT/SDOT Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan.

  1. New speed humps on 25th Avenue East and 26th Avenue East. SDOT installed six speed humps on 25th Avenue East and seven on 26th Avenue East between Boyer Avenue East and East Lynn Street. The speed humps will help reduce speeds and discourage cut-through traffic. 

    Status: Complete
  2. New traffic island on East Miller Street at Lake Washington Boulevard. SDOT installed an island to discourage illegal traffic movements around the existing diverter on Lake Washington Boulevard East / 26th Avenue East. Motorists driving southbound on Lake Washington Boulevard East / 26th Avenue East will no longer be able to turn onto East Miller Street (bike access will be maintained). East Miller Street will remain two-way for people biking and driving.

    Status: Complete
  3. Extend curb on Lake Washington Boulevard East at Roanoke Street. We’re extending northward the existing curb on Lake Washington Boulevard East to discourage illegal turns. Neighbors collected petition signatures to nominate this project as their preferred solution.

    Status: The design is complete, and construction is expected to happen this summer.

The left picture is of a speed hump on a residential street. The right picture is of a cement island in the middle of an intersection, that blocks cars from turning left but leaves space for bikes.
At left is one of the new speed humps installed on 25th and 26th avenues East. At right is the new traffic island along East Miller Street to discourage illegal traffic movements.

Montlake Boulevard Market and 76 gas station property acquisition update

Since 2016, WSDOT has been working to acquire the property where the market and gas station are located. The property is needed to construct various permanent project improvements for the SR 520 reconstruction program. On April 30, 2018, the state Court of Appeals affirmed the Sept. 6, 2017, King County Superior Court ruling that the property is needed for public use and WSDOT may proceed to acquire the property from the owners. On Aug. 9, we learned that the ruling made by the Court of Appeals was appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. We are awaiting the court’s decision as to whether or not they will hear the case. Meanwhile, we are working with tenants to relocate their businesses, including four wireless service providers currently operating on the property, as described further below.

WSDOT is also continuing to address a provision in the state Legislature’s 2018 supplemental transportation budget (Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6106) regarding the Montlake Market. The proviso states: 

“The legislature recognizes the department [WSDOT] must acquire the entirety of parcel number 1-23190 for construction of the project. The department shall work with its design-build contractor to ensure to the maximum extent practicable that the building housing any grocery store or market currently located on parcel number 1-23190 will be preserved. The legislature recognizes the city of Seattle has requirements in the project area that the department must address and that those requirements may affect the use of parcel number 1-23190 and may affect the ability of the department to preserve any grocery store or market currently located on the property. The department shall meet and confer regularly with residents in the vicinity of the parcel regarding the status of the project and its effects on any grocery store or market currently located on the property. The legislature strongly encourages the city to utilize maximum flexibility in how the department meets the city’s requirements and to be an equal partner in efforts to preserve any grocery store or market on parcel number 1-23190.” 

We have been working to review engineering and regulatory requirements for the Montlake Phase that have a direct impact on the Montlake Market building. At this time, WSDOT has not found a way to build the project and preserve the market building. After WSDOT selects a contractor later this year, we will work with the contractor to evaluate potential options that may allow preservation of the Montlake Market building. 

Environmental evaluation of Montlake Market removal 

In October 2016, we completed a National Environmental Policy Act reevaluation regarding design refinements to the West Approach Bridge South and Montlake lid. As part of our ongoing evaluation of the SR 520 project, we recently completed an evaluation of the environmental impacts of removing the market building. The July 2018 evaluation included an analysis of the neighborhood traffic, community, noise and environmental effects if the Montlake Boulevard Market were closed and the building removed. We know there are additional questions from the community and we will be responding to those questions shortly.

You can view the full July 2018 (pdf 1.111 mb) and October 2016 reevaluations (pdf 3.55 mb) on our website.

Temporary relocation of wireless facility planned for WSDOT property

A company named Crown Castle currently operates a wireless-communications structure – called a “monopole” – on the Montlake Market property. The pole serves two wireless carriers. There are also two facilities on the roof of the market that serve two additional wireless carriers. In order to maintain emergency 911 service as well as uninterrupted wireless phone and data service for the Montlake neighborhood, the southern portion of the University of Washington campus and the SR 520 corridor, Crown Castle is working with WSDOT to remove its wireless equipment from the Montlake Market property and erect a new, temporary wireless structure on the nearby WSDOT Peninsula. The new pole will be able to accommodate all four wireless service providers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) that currently use the Montlake Market property. 

Regardless of whether the Montlake Market building can be preserved, the existing wireless communication facilities located on the property need to be removed due to safety concerns, access restrictions and maintenance needs during SR 520 construction activities. 

Crown Castle is proposing that the new, temporary structure’s design resemble a tree to better blend into the surrounding area. The lower-right photo shows what this “monofir” might look like. The new pole is expected to be at the WSDOT Peninsula location through the completion of SR 520 construction, at which point, WSDOT will work with Crown Castle to relocate their pole to a permanent location. 

Crown Castle is preparing to submit a conditional use permit application for the temporary structure to the city of Seattle later this summer. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will provide public notice in its Land Use Information Bulletin and hold a public comment period. We will share more information with the community when the permit application is complete and the schedule confirmed.

The left picture is of an open green area behind a chain link fence. The right picture is of the same area with a tall tree-shaped object in the middle.
At left is the current WSDOT Peninsula site, looking east toward Lake Washington Boulevard East from East Miller Street. At right is a simulation of the proposed monofir pole, with screening trees at its base.

Rolling through summer: SR 520 Trail counter passes 220,000 trips in 2018

We hit another milestone on the SR 520 Trail recently, when our trail counter surpassed 220,000 trips in 2018! The counter, located near the trail’s western entrance in Montlake, has been tallying up users since the trail’s opening across Lake Washington last December. Unsurprisingly, warmer weather has meant more trail-goers over the last few months – to the tune of about 10,000 trips a week since June! Haven’t had a chance to visit yet? Our SR 520 Trail webpage has maps, connection information and everything else needed to plan your trip. Happy trails to you!

A bicyclist cycles away from the camera on the state route 520 trail through a brown field. To the left is the trail counter, a tall tower.