Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lighting And Noise Neighborhood Impacts Coming With "Rest Of The West" 520 Bridge, Take 520 Lighting Survey And Bridge Girder Update

A Laurelhurst resident living on Webster Point sent this information regarding SR520 lighting impacts:

Dear Neighbors,  
As many of you may have noticed last Friday, the proposed "final" lighting was turned on for the bike path on the new 520 bridge. Check it out tonight around 9pm, from the north side, if you haven't.  I'm a cyclist as well and I support the bike path.

The level of lighting is out of proportion to what is needed -- look at any pretty much other bike path in the state for comparison. And cyclists should always have a light on their bike when riding at night (it's not only wise, it's the law.)

It is easily possible to achieve safety AND no-glare.

After an initial turn-on of 100W (!) bulbs several months ago, after hearing from several neighbors here, they shut it down for testing in April, which was commendable.

They now have a revised "solution" of what looks like zillions of 50W (!) bulbs. If you're like me though, you find the glare from this 50W lighting extremely industrial, urban-feeling, distracting, unnecessarily bright, and likely a new light-pollution risk for birds and the lake ecosystem.

Above is an unaltered photo from Webster Point for your consideration. As of this writing, unless we act now with our voices to change things -- this is NOT temporary construction lighting. It is currently the permanent plan. I would very much like the 520 project leaders to consider further change here -- all of a sudden, I feel like we're living next to a factory/runway.

I must emphasize that this shouldn't be adversarial -- on several occasions, I've found the WSDOT team actively soliciting input and trying to balance many concerns sensibly. (Though I've not been the most involved, so take that statement with a grain of salt.)

PLEASE take a moment to add your voice if you agree that this lighting is too much and needs to be further mitigated and send an email to those listed below. It's totally possible to light this path in a much more environmentally-friendly and less-visually-impactful-to-non-users kind of way.
This is an obvious design fail. It should have been quite simple to light the path in a non-glare design. Mistakes happen, and this one is high impact for many. But fixable. Obviously the design would have been better if the bulbs weren't pointing straight out and north, but rather downlighting from the rails (like the I-5 overpass near Northgate, or other areas).

I think there are far, far less environmentally-impactful solutions that don't look like a runway.

From my perspective, the 520 bridge project managers have solicited and often acted upon feedback. I am greatly concerned that if we don't speak up now, the bridge lighting (dawn to dusk) will be permanent. 
From a practical standpoint, the issue now is to figure out how to improve/mitigate it.  
Send email to: 

Stacey Howery, WSDOT

Rep Gerry Pollet (who has been very supportive)

Rep Jessyn Farrell

Senator David Frockt

Julie Meredith at WSDOT

Specific suggestions I've made include:

1) Adding downward shielding so it is not simply glare coming north
2) Lighting only every third bulb
3) Reducing wattage even further
4) Adding a rheostat (dimmer) to the circuit
5) Not turning on the bike path lights until when the bike path is open from one end to the other (right now it is only an out-and-back recreational ride from the Eastside.)
6) Consider north-side low wall instead of the see-through fencing.

Another neighbor wrote to the Laurelhurst Blog about the noise impacts:
Thank you for your recent post.  I suspect that many Laurelhurst residents aren't yet aware that the very same expansion joint design which has driven down property values in Medina/Yarrow Point, and ruined the ability for many of those residents to even be outdoors, is the
 exact same design which is going to be installed on the Seattle side unless we can prevent it.   
I have visited people who live in Medina, several blocks away from the water, and the noise they hear is deafening and constant-24 hours a day.  I suspect many people on the Seattle side think they've been spared so I encourage you to keep getting the word out about this.   Medina/Yarrow Point residents never saw this coming, but we sure can.   
The addition of expansion joints on the new Seattle side will significantly and negatively impact Laurelhurst forever with deafing, high decible thumping.  The time to try to stop this is now.    
The design was set years ago and construction is set to begin in less than 12 months.  I haven't heard anything about the design being changed (from what was done on the Medina side) to mitigate noise on the Seattle end. So I wouldn't assume the construction it's going to be any different/better for us than it is on the Medina side.  I believe it's always been planned to be exactly the same design on both ends--why wouldn't be?   
think it's safe to assume that unless/until anyone hears otherwise, the construction methodology on the west side will be the exactly the same as it was for the east side

Here is an update from several neighbors on the glaring light problem from the bridge since it opened on April 2nd.  The neighbors contacted WSDOT to request how to reduce the various types of bright lights glaring onto the waters of Lake Washington. The new bridge , when fully lit, looked like a cruise ship on Lake Washington to the dismay of nearby residents.
The key issues on lighting are:
1. Large bright lights shining straight out to the north from poles mounted on top of the bridge deck. 
2. Numerous lights on the bridge deck shining from inside of the vehicle barricade of the bike/pedestrian lane outward through the open railing, and onto the lake to the north. 
3. Various colored lights have been added in a higher wattage-red, blue and green on and under the lower part of the bridge. 
4. Sentinel lights in a variety of colors -usually decorative in nature,  are whimsically lit. 
The old bridge, and I-90 had dim lights, and only using wattage needed for safety. No crashes had been attributed to low lighting in 53 years previously. 
A Laurelhurst Community Club Trustee met with the SR520 head engineers, Larry Kyle and Kerry Philstrom, who are working on an acceptable solution. However, they indicated that here are two major embedded design obstacles already in the new bridge that may hamper the "fix": 
1. The basic lighting design is flawed on the Floating Bridge. The lights are installed facing from inside to glow outside to light the bike/pedestrian lane. Since the railing is open to the north, the excess light sills over, and onto Lake Washington, and worse, reflects more off the water to surrounding shoreline parks and residences, obscuring the treasured views of Mt. Rainier. 
2. WSDOT, or its contractor, KGM, has  installed  400  lighting fixtures  along the bike/ped pathway. When the bridge opened up for traffic, they all were lit with 100 watt bulbs. (very ecological-not). Unfortunately, those expensive fixtures can only go as low as 50 watts, which is still extremely bright on a dark lake.
LCC has suggested to WSDOT a variety of solutions including:
1. removing every other bulb on the bike/ped lane if proven to be safe.
2. replace light fixtures themselves, with lower wattage capacity-eg. 20 watts 
3. place "hoods" partially over the existing light fixtures to reduce glare, and direct light onto the lane itself, not spill over.  
4. install a continuous light shield along the north railing of the bike/ped lane to capture the light, and block it from shining onto the lake.  
The newer ,WABN (West Approach Bridge North) that faces Laurelhurst in Union Bay should be better as the design is different, and had the bike/ped lane lighting facing inward from the railing back to the bridge deck.  
Numerous neighbors and members from Laurelhurst Community Club met in May with City Council member Rob Johnson, and City Liaison, Bernard Van deKamp and briefed them about the unacceptable "light pollution".  Bernard said he would bring it to the attention of WSDOT, and work towards a solution.  In addition, WSDOT has been informed directly by Laurelhurst , Medina and Hunt's Point residents.
LCC will continue to work for a better solution to provide safe, but more dim lighting for the new Floating Bridge.

Here is the response about the lighting from WSDOT following LCC's communication:
In early April, WSDOT heard from several project neighbors regarding lights that can be seen on the north side of the new SR 520 floating bridge. Based on initial comments, we turned off all non-essential lighting on April 12 and delayed the opening of the new regional shared-use path (RSUP), or bike/pedestrian path, until testing could be completed and the correct, safe lighting levels can be established for pedestrians and/or cyclists using the path at night.

Testing of the new lights on the bridge was conducted May 3-4 and the WSDOT team is currently analyzing the gathered data. During these tests lighting experts measured the light levels along the new bike/pedestrian path and from Lake Washington north of the bridge.

Below is a quick overview of the lights that were visible on the new floating bridge before some of them were turned off (April 12). As you can see, there are a variety of lighting types and requirements on the new bridge.
1.     Luminaires: appear as tall, amber lights that are essential safety lighting at the merge points on both the east and west ends of the bridge.
  1. Minor elements: architectural, pedestrian-scale lights located along the barrier between the RSUP and the roadway.
  2. Bike/pedestrian path and belvedere lighting: low-level lights required lighting for pedestrian and bicyclist safety. These lights have been turned off since April 12.
  3. Underdeck maintenance lighting: lights under the roadway deck, required during nighttime maintenance activities, otherwise these lights are turned off.
  4. Temporary construction lighting: mostly under the roadway deck; only turned on during nighttime construction activities. Most of this lighting has been moved to the old bridge.
  5. Blue lights: indicating emergency call boxes for distressed boaters.
  6. Red and green navigational lights: red lights run along the edge of the pontoons green lights indicate the navigational channels at the east and west ends of the bridge.
  7. Sentinels: up lighting on the sentinels and lights in the mesh boxes at the top of the sentinels. Sentinels mark the ends of the floating portion of the bridge.

The Portage Bay/Roanoke Park/Montlake and Laurelhurst neighbors group sent out this email last month regarding the impacts of the East side of the bridge soon coming to the west side of the bridge with the "rest of the west" installment:
TO: ALL SR520 Impacted Community Neighbors

Sign on NOW -- SR520 Bridge Replacement & Neighbors Speaking with One Voice
This appeal is to prevent WSDOT, City of Seattle and others from saying ‘the neighborhoods can’t agree’ on design/build approach to replace the aging SR520 bridge from Montlake to I-5.

SIGN ON in support of this brief outline of some of these issues-  affected noise, lighting, and congestion issues.
We need much more involvement from the city.  As you talk with city officials or candidates, please SIGN ON and repeat our request for a transportation plan for Montlake/Portage Bay/Roanoke Park... vehicles, transit, bike/ped.   WIthout any plan, we are living with the results of agencies competing with each other.  
Here are some of the problems we see with WSDOT’s ‘current plan’:

1)  WSDOT’s idea will make congestion worse -- We need a comprehensive Montlake transportation plan - As Montlake congestion increases it will put more pressure on Boyer,Delmar Roanoke, and 10th Avenue.  Please insist on a transportation plan to handle this as an integral part of the 520 project.   Details in WSDOT’s approach are unclear.  
) The plan will create much too much local noise, and to date there is not adequate design for noise abatement.  A sign of what’s to come? On the eastside  ‘expansion joint’ noise is producing excessive noise - WSDOT is now unresponsive to complaints from neighbors and the City of Medina.   
3) The plan will worsen safety.  Our neighborhood has certainly experienced the impacts of WSDOT's lack of maintenance under 520.  We believe that WSDOT must fund the city to do maintenance of all green areas near 520.  This is not yet agreed.   On the WSDOT's graphic, you will see an area named "Neighborhood open space".  -
Graphics of plan for Montlake area:
It is too small, to difficult to access, and much too noisy to serve as a community area.   It needs to be designed and maintained for active use.  
The Montlake lid was meant to reduce noise, but the presence of the bus stop and the 24th street overpass, and the lack of usefulness of the green space, means that at present the good may not outweigh the bad.  This really needs city planning involvement, and neighbors input. 
This 520 plan creates additional safety issues.  For the  bike/pedestrian  trails, I quote Lionel Jobs of Montlake, who has worked extensively on them. " To fulfill its promise, the Land Bridge needs to be integrated with a Lake Washington loop connected at 26th ave E to stop the nonsense of a bike route running through a system of alleyways using 90 degree turns and a connection at the main SB ramp of 520.  The existing solution is dangerous to cyclists, pets, neighbors, and delivers bike on a awkward 520 exit ramp.  Bikes riding east of 24th need to use the Land Bridge and a safe connection preferably under Lake Washington Blvd at 26th (although I think that a simple crosswalk with flashing lights would also work)."  We are also  concerned about pedestrian safety near the Hop-In Montlake Market, north towards UW.  
4) Rebuild the Bill Dawson Trail -- From the Montlake Playfield up to Montlake Blvd just south of NOAA, we want the trail re-built to a safe design, providing openness rather than a dark tunnel.   Put pressure on WSDOT and NOAA and WSDOT to resolve their differences about the property.
Here are some data sources:
- Notice of open house: 
- Web page where you can respond:  http://sr520.participate.online/feedback

Here is a June update from WSDOT:

During the Medina 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.  Here are the  materials presented at the council meeting on our website.
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 a WSDOT update regarding expansion joint noise in Seattle
Thank you for your questions regarding expansion joint sound heard on the west end of the new 520 floating bridge. You asked what is being done in Seattle to address the noise from expansion joints. At this time, we are planning to take some noise measurements on the west end of the new bridge, however as you may know, the highway west of the new floating bridge is currently in an interim configuration:

·         Traffic is still traveling on both old and new pavement at the west approach to the new floating bridge. 
·         Traffic is traveling in both directions in the new eastbound lanes, including over the joint at the west end of the bridge. 
·         West Approach Bridge North construction is still underway.  
For the West Approach Bridge North, which is currently under construction, we will be using Mageba expansion joints with sinus plates which may help reduce the noise created by tires crossing the joint. We are also planning to use a joint with similar features for the West Approach Bridge South, planned to begin construction in 2018. The sinus plates were not approved for use when the new floating bridge was under construction. In March 2014 the sinus plates were approved for use on the west approach bridges. We will encapsulate the joints underneath where feasible and use other underneath systems as needed. 
In addition, the following noise reduction commitments for Seattle are included in the environmental documentation: 
1.     Installing taller, 4-foot concrete traffic barriers along both sides of the SR 520 project alignment. 
2.     Using quieter concrete pavement, also known as Next Generation Concrete Surface. 
3.     Installing acoustically absorptive materials around lid portals (to be constructed in the Montlake area) above the impact zone. 
4.     Reducing the speed limit on the Portage Bay Bridge. 
Regarding noise mitigation on the west end of the SR 520 corridor, in the 2009 Noise Discipline Report, sound measurements and modeling indicated that noise walls were not recommended for Laurelhurst or Madison Park with the 6-lane alternative, which is being constructed. You can find these modeled measurements on PDF page 95 of the Discipline Report.  The 2011 Noise Discipline Report Addendum and Errata confirmed the earlier findings of no noise walls, based on sound measurements and modeling. We also heard from many neighbors in the area at the time that requested elimination of any noise walls that would obstruct views across the lake. 
Based on recent feedback, WSDOT staff will begin taking sound measurements on the west side to establish an interim baseline. We will inform you and your neighbors of the latest information as it becomes available.

Here is an update on the girder delivery

Heads Up: Girder delivery and placement to take place through mid-August

The delivery and placement of girders for the permanent WABN structure will resume in the coming weeks. Two months of placing isolation bearings, pouring concrete columns and constructing falsework (pictured below) has prepared crews to place girders on frame five, the section that connects WABN to the new floating bridge.

What you can expect:
  • 56 girders being delivered by barge the last weekend of July.
  • Seven girders being delivered by truck in mid-August.
  • One night of parking restrictions on East Lake Washington Boulevard between Montlake Boulevard and 24th Avenue East.
  • Three days of around-the-clock construction in mid-August on Lake Washington, near the new floating bridge, to place the girders on the new columns.
  • Construction lights used at night as crews place girders on top of the falsework pictured below.
We will update you with more details about the deliveries and specifics of construction activities as dates are confirmed in the coming weeks.
Frame 5 Ready for Girders
Frame 5 is ready for girders. Here you can see the columns and falsework where girders will be set.

You had questions – we have answers – check out our new Q&A document online

We received a lot of great questions during our recent open house in Montlake and two-week online open house about what lies ahead for SR 520 construction in Seattle.  
For those who may have missed these events, we’ve posted answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we received. Questions covered topics such as the design of a new Montlake lid, traffic management during construction, bicycle and pedestrian connections, and the status of the Montlake Boulevard Market.
We hope this Q&A is useful in providing more details about future construction in the SR 520 corridor between I-5 and Lake Washington – the Rest of the West.
As always, if you have other questions, please visit our website or send us an email at sr520bridge@wsdot.wa.gov
Conceptual rendering of a trail junction on the future SR 520 shared-use path in Montlake, looking north. Trail users veer left to access a new Montlake lid, or veer right to access a new land bridge across SR 520.

Picture of portion of bridge being moved recently:

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