This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Ever-consious about repeating the Viaduct fiasco, Gov. Gregoire has brought in some out-of-town help to forge consensus on 520:

The economic and transportation artery connecting the increasingly urban Eastside with an activist, neighborhood-oriented Seattle raises environmental, transit, bridge design and noise-reduction concerns.

Design proposals are particularly controversial in the most heavily affected areas — Montlake, the University of Washington and the Washington Park Arboretum.

Carless in Seattle has more on the various designs.

Now, I may come to regret this, but it strikes me that the 520 bridge is potentially much easier to solve than the Viaduct. Here’s why: the Viaduct straddles Seattle’s front doorstep, Elliot Bay. It’s extremely visible and public. It’s also in the center of a (primarily) non-residential urban core, a part of the city that most of us see and use on a daily or near-daily basis. In other words, there’s a great sense of collective ownership of the downtown waterfront.

The 520 bridge, on the other hand, primarily affects the neighboring residential neighborhoods (and various nearby entities like UW and the Arboretum). These constituencies have organized into discrete factions. Additionally, there’s more or less a consensus that (a) the bridge needs to be replaced, (b) it needs to be replaced with another bridge, and (c) the replacement should have 6 lanes with an HOV or other high-capacity option.

Given all that, a mediation process, therefore, ought to be able to bring the leaders of these various groups into alignment without getting the whole city involved in a potentially disastrous ballot process.