Monday, June 5, 2017

SR 520 Bridge Lighting Update

A small working group of concerned  North Seattle neighbors has been working with the 520 Bridge Project Team on the issue of the overly bright SR520 bridge lights and solutions on dimming them. 

In March, the group provided an update as well as a presentation
of the lighting impacts, key issues and concerns, as well as WSDOT activity regarding the issue.

Last week the group met with the WSDOT 520 Project Team to hear an update on the lighting for the Regional Shared Use Path (RSUP) as well as other issues.

The group provided this update.

At the meeting, various options were weighed that have been researched and costed-out, and a way was recommended to move forward to mitigate the excessive lights on the bridge.  
There was broad agreement that the most pragmatic solution is to shield the lights with a metal, louvered shroud. After prototype shield installations this spring, and feedback from the neighborhood group as well as representatives from Cascade Bicycle Club, WSDOT will soon commission, and the bridge contractor will be installing, downward-directing shields on all of the path lights that face north. They actually did three rounds of prototype shield manufacturing and testing, and we're going with the third such design ("P2C: prototype 2, closed").  
In anecdotal tests, this appears to block more than 80% of the north-out glare, and as expected actually improves visibility for bike riders due to dramatically reduced contrast. Don't expect to see these until pretty much the end of summer, however. We currently expect these to be installed in the August-October timeframe.  
These are custom shields, they take a while to manufacture and coat. Further, it's ultimately up to the contractor to squeeze it into the project timeline for installation, and as you might imagine, they have a lot on their plate. So expect to see the bright lights on the bridge through most (or potentially all) of the summer, but improvements will arrive.  
Entirely separately, the lighting for the "connector" part of the bridge that is being completed now, the so-called "West Approach Bridge North" (WABN) that goes over near Foster Island and Montlake is LED-based, due to much-later design/implementation timeline.  
WABN lighting will use a very different, base-shoe-mounted, low-powered LED-based technology and design. Applying this design to the existing span of the bridge would have cost taxpayers about $5+ million to rip out and reinstall the newer technology, and this option was fairly quickly discounted by the combined group as too expensive and impractical, at least in the near term.  
Those of us in the neighborhood working group want to take a moment to really commend the 520 Project Team, led by Julie Meredith and including key engineers from the project. for actually listening and responding to neighbor concerns about the excessive glare and negative impact on the environment.  
We also want to sincerely thank the Cascade Bicycle Club for their constructive input on the path lighting and their support for a pragmatic solution to reduce the glare and improve safety on the path.  
I'm very optimistic at this stage that a solution is at hand, but it will take a while to manufacture and install. You will likely notice the actual work toward the end of summertime or perhaps even early fall. By September/October, we should see the results of this effort -- significantly reduced glare from the bridge facing northward, reducing light pollution and improving the environment for generations to come.  
This is a great example of the community and the WSDOT team working together to fashion a pragmatic solution. Members of the group include neighbors Jean Amick, Colleen McAleer, Katherine Burk, and James Bradburne. Thanks also to Barney Harford for some great input, brainstorming and helpful photos, and to legislators Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Jessyn Farrell and Gerry Pollett.  

If you agree with me that this is quite laudatory listening and response, a thank-you to project lead Julie Meredith to WSDOT commissioner Roger Millar would be most welcome. With so many constituencies and big dollars at stake building the world's longest floating bridge, I imagine their ratio of "complaints vs. deserved thank-yous" is fairly high. It's definitely been my observation that they're really trying, within reasonable constraints, to do the right thing.  
If interested in some background info on this issue (now a bit out of date but still informative on the concerns and process), please see:  
Caveat: I am not a WSDOT employee; I do not have authority to speak for them. I am simply reporting on the status and next steps as I understand them.

For more information go here.


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