Montlake neighbors worried about next phase of SR 520 project

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 11:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 10 at 11:15 PM

The next phase of the State Route 520 bridge project is headed to one of Seattle's busiest and most congested neighborhoods. Construction on the West Approach Bridge North, or WABN, is expected to start in August.  That's not sitting well with people who live in Montlake.

The WABN is a three-lane, 1.2 mile-long structure, built to modern earthquake standards.  It will connect westbound travelers from the new floating bridge to the Montlake area. 

"The traffic is already very challenging here," said Peter DeLaunay.  "So what's the benefit?  What's the expected outcome of the project?"

He's a concerned resident who organized a community meeting held Tuesday night in Montlake.  Neighbors invited representatives from the Washington State Department of Transportation to be there, to explain exactly what they should expect over the coming months and years.

"The question is really what is the traffic management plan, and that remains a bit of an open question," said DeLaunay.

WSDOT representatives at the meeting said they understand the concern of families who live in the area, and promised they're trying to be good neighbors.

Larry Kyle is the State Route 520 Program Engineering Manager.

"It's very difficult to build a freeway in a city, and even more so with the traffic volumes that we have on 520 now and in Montlake and the intersections here," said Larry Kyle, who is the State Route 520 Program Engineering Manager.  "It's just a very tough situation."

During the first four to six months of construction, starting in late summer, residents will see street restrictions and detours on 24th Avenue East and Lake Washington Boulevard.

That's because crews must first create alternate routes along Montlake Boulevard  for drivers,  bicyclists, and pedestrians who use 24th Avenue East, before closing 24th where it crosses over State Route 520, for at least six months.

The new off-ramp will be built at that location.  The current westbound off ramp at Lake Washington Boulevard will eventually be demolished.

At the community meeting, residents expressed concern about the closure of 24th Avenue East.  WSDOT admits it is one of the busiest roads in the city for bicyclists.

Kyle says the long-term benefits outweigh the short term inconveniences.

Those who support the widening of State Route 520 believe the project will improve access to the University of Washington.

DeLaunany says he and his neighbors aren't opposed to the project, they just want to make sure they have a voice in the conversation.

In addition to increased traffic on surface streets, he says they're worried about what all the extra construction equipment and trucks will do to the air quality in that area.

This phase of the project is expected to last two to three years.

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