Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SR520 West Approach Bridge North Meeting Tonight And Laurelhurst Community Club's Update

An update on the West Approach Bridge North project is happening from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Graham Visitors Center.  There will also be an opportunity to ask  questions regarding the project’s progress.

The Laurelhurst Community Club provided this update on the project and impacts on the neighborhood:
Tonight's meeting is helpful to learn about closures, predicted noise, heavy equipment in the water.  It is always interesting to attend this public meeting to learn  what is new with the construction process of the SR 520 construction progress, most recently on the WABN (west approach bridge north).

Other news worthy aspects of the SR520 bridge include:
The old pontoon sections are still being stored in Union Bay 

LCC asked WSDOT about the promised  removal date as, according to WSDOT, they were only going to be stored "for a few weeks" for the governmental entity that bought them, (and that was in mid July). The real concern is their lack of stability, since they are no longer attached to anything.  If the  weather conditions get windy and stronger waves in movement, and they are sitting close to densely populated residential neighborhoods on both sides, it is a real safety hazard. LCC is now  waiting for WSDOT"s response .

Lighting is still too bright on the shared use pathway which is on the north side of SR520.   
WSDOT continues to light it up anyway , even though the lane is not connected to anything , and thus, not a transportation corridor. The  lighting of the shared use path  is  wasting  energy and taxpayer money.  

LCC has been in contact with WSDOT which is  working on some possible lighting solutions. However, after they changed out the first set of bulbs from 100 watts to 50 watts, the lighting is still too bright, and shines directly out towards the lake,  instead of down onto the shared use lane.  This design installed is not what was in the EIS, and produces unacceptable nighttime conditions for both wildlife and humans. 
LCC , and a group of concerned neighbors, have contacted WSDOT numerous times and has met with state and city officials to work on  correction.  Solutions proposed include replacing the fixtures for a lower wattage capacity bulb  (the existing ones can only house a minimum 50 watt bulb), placing hoods on the fixtures  to direct  a downlight of the existing lights, installing a dimmer system, and/or  adding a tall shield to the shared use path on the north side of the railing to capture the spilled light. 
The demolition  (rubblization) of the old bridge continues to be done in open barges on Lake Washington. 
Citizens in Kenmore have joined with LCC and Medina  and the Coalition for a Sustainable SR520 Bridge in an effort to protect the environment,  and to  re-direct this process to an enclosed facility. Potential pollutants such as arsenic, have been  found in the older bridge, and the open barge pulverizing  can allow  this toxic dust  to escape into the air and water. 
The Rest of the West is still being developed.  
LCC  met with a key Legislative Assistant on Transportation and the members of the Coalition for  Sustainable SR520 last week to discuss the need for a state/city comprehensive transportation plan.  It must include  capacity  and access for the planned new growth in the U of WA, and SCH Master Plans  and must be integrated before SR520 is finalized. In addition , safe routes to school,  Light Rail access, connectivity for bicyclists, pedestrians, and the need for the City of Seattle to GET INVOLVED  with an  special SR520 advocate for the City so that that the new western part of SR520 will function effectively.

Several neighbors recently sent comments to the Laurelhurst Blog about the project, in particular about the impacts of the bridge lighting:
WADOT claims to be investigating possible solutions to mitigate the excessive northern lighting of the hundreds of 50W bulbs that currently light the bike path on the new 520 bridge.    While the lights are shielded fixtures, the only shielding is on the top of each fixture (part of the "Dark Sky" initiative.) There is no shielding laterally, where it matters most to many north Seattle neighbors.   What you see in the evenings are NOT temporary lights, nor are they construction lights. They are the current proposed PERMANENT lighting. Hundreds of 50W bulbs, dawn to dusk, pointing at north Seattle forever. If you can find a more over-lit bike path in Washington, I'd like to see it. We here on the north side of the 520 bridge see the full effects of this wattage. No city skyline, no moon, no Rainier views. And many ecology studies have shown such lighting can be detrimental to salmon spawn and even migratory birds.  If you haven't done so already, a note to Debbie Driver (, who is liaison to WADOT in our state legislature, expressing concern would go a long way. She didn't cause these issues but she can be a good ally in fixing them.  NOW is the moment. It will either get solved soon, if we speak out, or never

There are many more effective ways to light the path that do not have light spilling where it's not needed. Shields/sconces facing down (not out), fixture replacements, dimmers, opaque barriers, etc. Recreational boats, for comparison, carry 12W lights, and bike lights themselves -- required by law for riding at night -- are generally 2 Watts.  It is also worth noting that since the bridge isn't complete on the western side, the path dead-ends, and is only an "out and back" loop for Eastside riders. Spot check surveys indicate very minimal use at present (which stands to reason, as it will not yet in any way connect to Seattle until next spring at the earliest.)   WADOT will be spending about $10,000 in electricity costs to light this bike path to nowhere for the next year; seems to me that tax dollars can be more wisely spent, particularly during the rainy season.   I fear that if we don't make our voices heard at state, we will forever be looking at a cruise ship from dawn till dusk. Please do write in, and forward or print out for non-Nextdoor-using neighbors who may have similar concern.   
The 520 bike/ped path "goes to nowhere" for the next year as it stops at the  western high rise.  It is not a transportation corridor and should not be illuminated.  It is a big waste of our taxpayer dollars. 
I think most people just assume the lighting issue will get fixed or that this is just a waterfront resident issue. It is really a degrading landscape, visibility and animal life issue. Do we really need lighting like the Bay bridge in a residential area?

WSDOT information to stay informed during WABN construction:

  • Call the 24-hour construction hotline (206-708-4657) with pressing questions or concerns.
  • Email WABN staff with your questions about the project or construction activities.
  • Join us for our monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Graham Visitors Center.
  • Visit the SR 520 Orange Page for the most up-to-date information on closures and construction impacts.
  • Visit the WABN project website to find general information about the project.
  • Follow us on Twitter @wsdot_520 to get key news and updates about the SR 520 program.
The West Approach Bridge North project is the next funded construction phase of the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program.

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