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City of Seattle

July 18, 3:18 PM click here to comment > 1

SR 520: Projections for a car-filled future

The Final Environmental Impact Statement for SR 520 was published on June 17th. Sometime very soon, we expect the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to approve a final design – an expansion of SR 520 to a six-lane highway.

It’s a big decision. Especially in this economy, with a project that has a $4.65 billion price tag.

That’s why the chart* below, created by the Sightline Institute, has us more concerned about this project than we were before. It tells us about WSDOT’s historic over-projection of traffic on SR 520:

Designing for thousands of cars per day that may not show up has resulted in a project with six lanes and a bigger footprint. A bigger footprint could cost us more money, more loss of wetland habitat, and cause bigger impacts to Seattle’s neighborhoods. For example, WSDOT’s Preferred Alternative is twice as wide as the existing structure through sensitive areas like Foster Island in the Arboretum.

And, once tolling begins later this year, even fewer people will be driving on SR 520.

Mayor McGinn sent a letter to WSDOT on July 15 (last Friday) outlining some of his remaining concerns about the project. In this letter, he also points out:
1. Analysis in the FEIS shows that a tolled four-lane alternative makes great progress in moving people and goods and improving traffic.

2. The FEIS does not address the $2 billion funding gap for this $4.65 billion project and what it means for construction phasing. The unfunded portion of the project happens to be the Seattle portion, so if the bridge is replaced and there’s no more money, we’re stuck with six lanes of traffic coming into Seattle’s current four lane highway.
3. Commitment to implement high capacity transit—Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) at first, and Light Rail later—is weak. The FEIS does not specify any clear plans and does not commit funding to support high capacity transit like BRT or Light Rail.

As the project continues, we’ll keep working with WSDOT to represent Seattle’s interests.

*This was originally published in Sightline Institute’s “Dude, Where are my cars?” series of blog posts.

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Posted by: Rebecca Deehr


Comment from John Gaines
Time July 19, 2011 at 9:11 am

The 520 bridge will be with us for generations and the design needs to take into account long term changes in how and why we travel.
Thank you for your foresight and leadership on this issue!