Monday, November 28, 2016

SR520 Lighting Impact Special Meeting Tomorrow With SDOT At Center For Urban Horticulture

unaltered photo from Webster Point

Tomorrow at 6:30pm at the Center for Urban Horticulture, SDOT and State elected officials from the 46th District will be holding a meeting regarding the impacts of the lighting on the 520 bridge, which not only impacts neighbors, but also affects the health of the migrating salmon and the ecosystem.

Some of the impacts noted are the large bright lights shining straight out to the north from poles mounted on top of the bridge deck, 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, various colored lights have been added in a higher wattage-red, blue and green on and under the lower part of the bridge, sentinel lights in a variety of colors.

The Laurelhurst Community Club has commented that the old 520 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.

The excessive lighting issue was on King 5 recently.

Neighbors have commented about the lighting and other impacts: 

We need your voices at tomorrow's one hour meeting to help urge SDOT along to a practical solution, such as simply installing stainless steel shielding to direct the light down onto the path where it's needed. It sounds as though they've "evaluated alternatives" but haven't yet found one that suits them to move forward.
We completely support the bike path, but it's lit in a very environmentally-damaging way, which needs to be changed. At a minimum, the bike path needs shielding so the light is directed down onto the path, not out onto the water, where it harms the environment. What you see in the attached photo are not car headlights, they are rather the outward-facing lights (each actually the brightness of a car headlight) facing out from the wall and spilling onto the water. Numerous studies show that excess artificial light draws young salmon to the surface, where they are at much greater risk of predation. Overly bright lights also disrupts migratory patterns for birds and other wildlife. Further, the Coast Guard warns that overly bright lights can cause night blindness and safety issues for navigating recreational and commercial boats, whose captains might not see swimmers, paddleboarders or kayakers in the water.  
The maddening thing here is that it's eminently and easily fixable, and it can even be done with minimal or even zero impact on the budget. Many neighbors are willing to help solve it.   Numerous studies have shown that excessive light has measurable and negative effects on the environment. And the lighting is vastly different than was promised and represented to all stakeholders, including the Department of Ecology and the northwest tribes.   
The bike path can be very safely and adequately lit with much lower and/or more efficiently-directed lighting. It's currently lit at 3400 lumens per bulb. Each metal halide bulb emits the equivalent of a 200 watt incandescent bulb, and more than one hundred times brighter than the required level we all use with bike lights at night. And there are two hundred of them. There are hundreds of 50W metal halide bulbs on 520, which emit way too much light onto the lake and all points north, from dusk till dawn, 365 days per year. It was a huge design mistake to face these lights outward, right through the railing and onto the lake and then to all points north. They need to be shielded down, onto the path, and NOT onto the surface of the lake. Numerous studies have shown that artificial surface light draws fish, particularly young salmon, and as a result, they are at much greater risk of predation.   
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.)  
Take a moment to add your voice if you agree that this lighting is too much and needs to be further mitigated. 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). 
The Bridge Lights could be dimmed to 50% brightness two hours after sunset, then off four hours after with motion sensors to turn on 50% brightness for 30 seconds if a cyclist or pedestrian happens by.   
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? I think there are many questions here. 
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.  We'd appreciate a response and hope to soon see LCC filing a complaint on behalf of Laurelhurst neighbors affected by this problem.    


At the monthly October SDOT meeting LCC reported that  SDOT said that the new sections have lighting low to the surface, facing inwards and low wattage. Neighbors asked why SDOT can't fix current excessive lighting, who said it's complicated, and  they are working on it, but need to keep lights on" because people are using the shared use path, however it is not  connected.

The Laurelhurst Community Club  (LCC) has said about the lighting:
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 have 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.  
LCC has been very troubled about the excess noise generated from  the new SR 520 bridge . Neighbors 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.
he new bridge has already caused additional daytime shading, and produces glaring night spill onto Lake Washington, and generated excess noise and vibrations which adversely affecting the vitality of fish, shore birds, and rare bird habitat. Preserving habitat in this ecosystem, and mitigating for the severe damages inflicted upon survival, must be delineated, and required.

Here is information about the meeting tomorrow night:

Nov. 22, 2016
You’re invited:
SR 520 Regional Shared-Use Path Light Evaluation
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the 46th Legislative District will be hosting a community meeting to discuss WSDOT’s evaluation of the lights on the SR 520 Regional Shared-Use Path (RSUP).
WSDOT will provide an overview of the lighting design process and share
the evaluation results of potential adjustments to the path lighting.
The meeting is open to the public and will be held at the
Center for Urban Horticulture on Tuesday, Nov. 29.
Event information is detailed below.

SR 520 RSUP Light Evaluation Community Meeting
Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016
6:30 — 8:30 p.m.
Presentation begins at 6:45 p.m.
University of Washington
Center for Urban Horticulture
Northwest Horticultural Society Hall
3501 NE 41st Street, Seattle, WA 98105
Presentation materials from a recent presentation are available online.
Link to a map for the Center for Urban Horticulture.
See a larger version of this map.

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