Monday, June 27, 2016

SR520 "Rest of the West" Open House Tomorrow And LCC's Serious Concerns On Next Phase Of Construction And Their Ongoing Work On Abating Noise And Lighting Issues Affecting Laurelhurst Residents

Large expansion joints on the new 520 floating bridge allow swelling and movement of the structure, but despite the state’s effort to minimize noise, the sound of vehicles hitting the joints has brought complaints from residents on both sides of Lake Washington. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Tomorrow from 4:30-7pm, WSDOT is holding an in-person open house at St. Demetrios Hall (2100 Boyer Ave. E) regarding the next phase of SR520 construction, to begin by 2018, between I-5 and Lake Washington, sometimes referred to as "rest of the West." 

The online open house is available through July 8 at feedback as well as providing an  overview and design renderings of corridor improvements in Seattle’s Montlake area.  

The WSDOT information says:

Both the online and in-person open houses are focusing primarily on the first of three phases of west side construction. This next phase includes construction of:
  • A landscaped lid and multimodal transit hub over SR 520 in Montlake
  • A separate “land bridge” across SR 520 for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • The West Approach Bridge South, which will carry eastbound Seattle traffic across Union Bay to the new floating bridge 

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) strongly urges that Laurelhurst residents participate in commenting on the new piece of SR520.

LCC told the Laurelhurst Blog:

It appears that the  new plans include features that will affect traffic patterns around the Montlake Interchange, new bike paths, bus stops and offer a lid for crossing.  This huge bridge borders our shoreline, and to date  with the new bridge many new problems have been created (rather than offering any improved from the old one).
Here are some key issues that neighbors might want to explore and comment to WSDOT and this is just a very short list of possible questions for Laurehurst neighbors to inspect via email with the "on-line" tour, or go in person: 
1. NOISE-Loud expansion joints-what will the WABN, and "the rest of the West" be using?  What other sound buffers, absorption materials will be used to reduce bridge noise? 
2. TOO MANY BRIGHT LIGHTS- Lighting on new bridge design should be lit AWAY from the outside of bridge, and face from the railing back to the inside of the new bridge, away from residences, and fish and wildlife. None should be colored, and all dim, and unobtrusive. 
3. DEMOLITION of old bridge-This process should be done on a land site which is encapsulated, away from residents, and not on in-water-open barges. Doing it on the Lake or Union or Portage Bay is not acceptable to prevent discharge of hazardous pollutants into the air and water. 
4. TRAFFIC -ask how the new HOV lanes will connect up through, and to I-5, if there will be more back ups on Montlake Blvd. 
5. Ask why there are so many bus lanes on top of the Montlake lid? 
6. Ask why waste taxpayer money on  building and maintaining an "outlook" at the Montlake Interchange? There is no view to enjoy-just fumes from below. 
7. Request that the new second bascule bridge be built with a transit lane to accommodate buses, and connect their lane from Montlake Blvd across that new bridge.

The Laurelhurst Blog recently published information about the impacts on Laurelhurst and other neighborhoods of the noise from the bridge as well as lighting issues.

LCC also urges affected Laurelhurst neighbors take a short survey to define concerns. Neighbors can also submit comments directly to

Here is a petition created by Median residents which Laurelhurst residents can also sign.

The Seattle Times published an article last month about the issue titled: 
520 Bridge Expansion-joint Noise Drives Hundreds Of Complaints.

A Laurelhurst neighbor told the Laurelhurst Blog:

We are all growing very concerned as we see so much news coverage, including the recent piece about bridge demolition, but nothing  is ever mentioned about the noise level affecting this side of the lake which is a significant problem for many of us. 
The constant thumping of the expansion joints negatively effects many Laurelhurst residents, not to mention anyone out on the lake.   I suspect it's also had a negative effect on all sorts of wildlife, as well.  The eagles and heron we typically see swooping along the lake have all but disappeared.   
Like many residents, I wonder how it is possible that we ended up with a new bridge which creates noise so far above acceptable limits.  The noise issue has definitely impacted parts of the neighborhood, and many of us hear the very loud and constant thump of the expansion joints from our homes or out walking "the loop", etc.   
We are puzzled as to why we only hear about Medina, Clyde Hill, etc.  when so many of us in Laurelhurst are affected and concerned. This is an important issue with significant impact on the lives of many Laurelhurst residents.   
With so many Laurelhurst residents complaining about expansion joint noise from the new 520 bridge, we're wondering if LCC has gotten involved and voiced any complaints on our behalf?   We hope to soon see LCC filing a complaint on behalf of Laurelhurst neighbors affected by this problem.   
I've only heard about Eastside communities on the news, but it certainly seems that a large area of Laurelhurst has also been significantly impacted.Many of us would appreciate seeing Laurelhurst represented on this issue--and wonder if we are.

LCC told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:

LCC has been very troubled about the excess noise generated from  the new SR 520 bridge . Neighbors #1 concern when it was designed that it be made quieter so shoreline park users and home owners could be outside without shouting conversations over bridge noise.
However when the new bridge opened in April, it is terrible in both excess noise generated, and new , various glaring lights at night. 
Some of the reasons that the new bridge is noisier could be a result numerous reasons, but have not yet been addressed by WSDOT: 

1. There are more expansion joints, creating more noise opportunities. We are not sure if these are installed incorrectly, or not the right type that minimizes noise. (The noise experts  suggested new German type joints that reduce banging noises.) 
2. The noise could be louder from  bouncing down and out on a hard surface (concrete) below the bridge. The old bridge was floating under the water . Our Coalition predicted this might happen as more dense surface bounce-back greater noise on solids rather than less dense liquid from the under -the-water design the Mediation stakeholders asked for. It was denied so that maintenance could be performed on a concrete surface under the bridge (maybe once/twice a year)  
3. The speed limits are now higher, adding more roadway noise at higher speeds (especially with trucks at night with less traffic). 
4. The so-called -quieter pavement is grooved (tined) concrete, not sound absorption of a type of asphalt . That type degrades  and  was rejected due to more maintenance from deterioration from the use of studded tires in our state. 

5. The bridge is located higher on the water, and the sound of roadway noise carries to the higher up levels as well -now to the  inside residents' homes, decks, etc.

Right after the bridge opened, LCC contacted our  WA State Reps  Jessyn Farrell  (Vice-chair House State Transportation Committee), and Gerry Pollet, and also State Sen David Frockt. They were apparently told  that WSDOT "met with someone from your group" , and is "working on it", but no specifics are given.
WSDOT never met with the Seattle people,  only the Eastside cities and townships because their mayors contacted WSDOT for remediation. 
The City of Seattle' Mayor and SDOT Director  have been contacted.  City Council Member Rob Johnson (who represents our City District #4), and Seattle's  Bernard van de Kamp,  had a meeting with LCC president, vice president and concerned neighbors on May 24th.  State Rep Gerry Pollet  attended the extended meeting with Bernard van de Kamp as well. However, the City of Seattle has not responded except to say they are working with the SR520  team to monitor and resolve these issues. 
The better news is that the Eastside communities are livid and willing to act, so they have pressed WSDOT , and may help all of us affected. 
During the SR520 official State Mediation, neighborhoods requested that WSDOT assemble some experts around the world to help solve the problem of the "noisy bridge." 
Here are some relevant excepts from the tax payer billed report from the planning of SR520:
Noise Reduction Strategies Expert Review Panel
Chair, Dr. Paul Donavan November 24, 2008
Some the key recommendations after their analysis included at least these concepts:
1. Section 18 Avoid repeating features and impulses on pavement surface
" impulsive noise   ..should be avoided  by minimizing them in design"
"Traverse tining should be avoided".
"Widened or improperly maintained construction joints should also be avoided"
2.  Sections 26.-28  Prohibit  or limit studded tires along SR520
3. Section 29 . Prohibit Compression Braking
4. Section 30 Restrict Truck Lane use for barrier effectiveness -move trucks either to inside or outside lane to maximize effectiveness of sound absorption barriers .
5. Section 31 Reduce Speed Limits at Night -especially since a higher percentage of truck traffic occurs at night.
6. Section 32. Quieter Bridge Joints-Inventory current bridge joints for noise, and implement quieter designs . "Examples include steel ramps, finger joints, and special German joints optimized for low noise ".
7. Section 33  Local Absorptive Material near Joint "the liberal application of sound absorbing material on reflective surfaces near bridge joints may reduce joint noise propagation"
8. Section 34 . Under Deck Covers - "Encapsulation of the underside of bridge decks could potentially reduce noise, particularly in the vicinity of grating or joints"

 LCC  will continue to work with State Representatives Pollet and Farrell, The City of Seattle officials, and WSDOT and surrounding communities, on remedying the excessive  bridge noise. We are hoping that some of these original ideas may be able to help, but will use every tool needed before the bridge is paid for with taxpayers money.
We'll continue to press the City of Seattle for action, especially Rob Johnson the 4th District City Council member on the transportation committee, and the Mayor's office, and Bernard van de Kamp. 
Here is the May 17th note to Mayor Murray, and to Scott Kubly from LCC . It was the Mayor's Office that agreed to the original Memorandum of Understanding with WSDOT, and they need to enforce it now before it is too late. They have not offered any specific action plan to help.

Subject: SR520 Noise Violations in residential neighborhoods _URGENT!
Sent: Tue, May 17, 2016
As you may, or may not know, the City of Seattle has been involved from the outset with the design process, commented in the EIS , and issued a Letter of Memorandum  with WSDOT before the issuing needed permits to build the new SR520 Replacement Bridge.

Throughout the 10 year process, there has also been an active  coalition of adjacently impacted neighborhoods called  "The Coalition for a Sustainable SR520".   Many of these representative also were part of the official State Mediation Team which met for 16 months to find a preferred alternative to build.

The Seattle neighborhoods who are part of this group are: Montlake, Madison Park, Laurelhurst, Portage Bay, Roanoke Park and North Capital Hill and the Seattle Boating Community.   We met for 6 years and offered concrete, and constructive input to WSDOT so that the result of the new ,massive concrete structure across Lake Washington would offer at least some improvement over the old structure. The premise is that "we know better now" when building large Mega-projects near single family neighborhoods. These are the taxpayers who look at it, and hear it 24/7, and are exposed to the pollution caused by its construction process.

The Coalition for Sustainable SR520 worked with then Senator Ed Murray, Representative Frank Chopp, the Seattle City Council, and Mayor McGinn to ensure that at a minimum, the noise levels would be less, and the new lighting would be very negligible for the Bike/Ped lanes now facing north. The lighting now has been installed wrong so that the lights project outward, instead of from the outside back inward on the Bike/Ped lane. The result is bright lights on the water obscuring the traquil state of Lake Washington and interfering with native fish trying to propel in bright light instead of a darker, natural environment.

The "Floating Bridge" section of this multi-stage project SR520 Replacement Project is now in operation. Despite all of the recommendations, and the federally required Health Assessment Report, this new bridge is actually operating far worse than the old one. Both the noise it emits and the bright lighting ,ranging from multi-colored to glaring floodlights on Lake Washington are new nuisances.  Both the added noise, and the visual pollution that the new bridge violates the Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Seattle and WSDOT.  For the record, it is  Seattle City  Council Bill #117303, dated 10/24/11 with specific instructions in Section 2.1.2 to WSDOT to reduce traffic noise.

The Eastside neighborhoods  (see their email trails  and noise code violation citations) have immediately reacted, and have had meetings with WSDOT.  In addition, their local municipalities have actively been engaged in requiring WSDOT to correct these problems, measuring the loud noises that are in violation of numerous codes..

The Coalition for a Sustainable SR520 would like to meet with you,  and also have the City of Seattle actively participate work with WSDOT  to correct the noise and lighting problems on the new bridge affecting the City's residents.

Please let us know if you have a time slot available  in your incredible busy schedule to meet, and find a way to collaborate with WSDOT and these Eastside Communities to achieve a better outcome on SR520 "before the bills are paid".

Here is an email from the Medina Mayor:

From: Sheree Wen
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2016 1:42 PM
To: Robert Grumbach; Michael Sauerwein
Cc: City Council Mail
Subject: Citation for 520 bridge noise pollution

Dear Mr. Grumbach and Mr. Sauerwein,

Since opened, the new 520 bridge has generated tremendous noise that has disrupted Medina residents‘ daily lives and is a nuisances for hundreds of families and thousands of residents in surrounding cities. If not mediated, the noise will also result in devaluation of home values as residents cannot enjoy their yards as quietly as before. That is in violation of residents’ constitutional rights.

Since WSDOT received the first complaint, they have been taking their time to take noise measurements, but short of creating a mitigation plan and taking action. They have publicly stated that due to their WSDOT highway regulation, they only mitigate if bridge noise data collected on residents’ properties are above the 66 dba threshold. Please also be aware that they have been measuring bridge noise only during weekdays and off peak hours when the traffic across 520 bridge is low. They measure the noise level Leq - the average noise level - for 15 minutes’ duration. The loud thumping noise we have heard is a burst peak noise that is excluded from their 66 dba mitigation threshold consideration. As a result, most neighboring properties are suffering the annoying noise but are ineligible to be mitigated according to WSDOT rules.

I took the liberty of doing some measurement on my own property as an example and applying those measured data against existing laws and regulations, WSDOT is obligated to mitigate the bridge noise according to the following law and regulations.

a) WA state RCW 173-60-040, Maximum permissible environmental noise levels.

RCW 173-60-040 states the residential area noise level shall be less than 45 dba during 10pm and 7am and 55dba during other week day hours.

Please see the attached noise measurement, this morning taken at 6:44am on May 16th on my property at 3245 Evergreen Point Rd. Medina WA.
The measured Leq 95% was 54dba that is 9dba above the state noise threshold of 45db. The measured noise level is approximately 8x higher than state law permits.

b) King county 12.86.110 Environmental sound levels – maximum permissible sound levels.

King county environmental noise control level is set at 55 dba for residential areas and reduced to 45 dba during 10pm -7am on weekdays and 10pm to 9am during weekends. The Peak level shall be less than 60dba.

On Saturday, May 14th, at 8:22am, the noise measurement on my property indicated 69 dba, and with Leq of 95% at 56dba. The 56 dba Leq noise level is 16.2 times higher than the King County allowed noise limit of 45 dba. The measured peak level was at 92.8 dba which is 1900 times of noise level above 60 dba limit.

The measurement on the Evergreen Pt. Rd park on Saturday morning, May 14th at 8:36 am was 71dba with Leq at 62dba and peak at 97.9 dba. The Leq of 95% was 48 x higher than king county limit of 45 dba. The peak level was 6,160 times of the King County noise limit.

The thumping noise level contributes to peak level, but make minimum contribution to Leq measurement because of its short duration and their peak energy was averaged out.

c) Medina MMC 8.06 Noise follow the King County Code.

d) WA state 9.66.010 Public nuisance law
A public nuisance is a crime against the order and economy of the state, Every place, every act unlawfully done and every omission to perform a duty, which act or omission
(1) Shall annoy, injure or endanger the safety, health, comfort, or repose of any considerable number of persons;
Shall be a public nuisance.

Please issue citations to protect the 520 new bridge’s noise pollution and resulting nuisance to Medina residents.

Here is email from Stacey Howery, City Communications, SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program:

Last week, WSDOT staff presented at the June 13, Medina City Council. In case you were unable to attend, we have posted the materials presented at the council meeting.  

During the council meeting, WSDOT committed to continuing to work with the city of Medina on this issue. As part of this collaboration, we recently posted the current draft of WSDOT’s Noise Analysis Report which was prepared by the Northwest Region Acoustics, Air Quality and Energy Program.

While current sound readings show that the new bridge is complying with federal and state regulations, WSDOT and the SR 520 Program team understand that there is a distinct sound created when vehicles drive over new highway infrastructure. Next steps include:
·         Continuing to work with the city of Medina.
·         Taking additional sound measurements based on comments we heard during the council meeting.
·         Completing construction of the final noise wall, screening wall and viewpoint trail on the south side of the new bridge near the Evergreen Point Road lid.

Here is WSDOT information:

Learn more about plans for the SR 520 corridor from Lake Washington to I-5 with our online open house

Banner Image

Visit our open houses – both online and in person – to learn about the next phase of SR 520 construction in Seattle

Montlake lid rendering
A rendering, looking east, of a new landscaped lid crossing over SR 520 at the Montlake Boulevard interchange in Seattle.

With the new State Route 520 floating bridge now open to traffic and a new West Approach Bridge North slated to open next summer, we’re gearing up for a 2018 start of construction on the next phase of SR 520 improvements in Seattle. Interested to know what is involved?

With the Legislature’s passage the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package, the “Rest of  the West,” which is the segment of SR 520 from Lake Washington to I-5, is now fully funded.

WSDOT is preparing for construction to begin by 2018 on the next phase: the West Approach Bridge South (WABS) and a new Montlake lid and land bridge across the highway. We’re sharing design renderings for the next phase of construction and providing updates based on the work we’ve done with our partner agencies, design professionals, and community stakeholders. Join us on June 28 to learn about: 1. Updated design renderings for the WABS, Montlake lid and land bridge  2. Schedule and next steps for construction (set to begin by 2018), and how to stay informed 3. A look ahead to future phases of the Rest of the West 4. Other topics such as an overview of design-build contracting and planned environmental enhancements 5. An update on current construction of the West Approach Bridge North (WABN) For contractors interested in potential opportunities and requirements, please stop by our diversity and inclusion table for additional resources.

Questions? Email:
Call:  206-770-3554

(photo courtesy of Seattle Times)

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