520 Bridge
Photo from novon on flickr
In a my continuing series on how expensive roads are, I offer this P-I article that points out the rising costs for the 520 bridge. So-called “option K” has a price tag of $6.6 billion, and the cheapest option is $4.5 billion. For a constrast, all the light rail in the Prop. 1 package passed this month had a price tag of about $7 billion.

9 Replies to “$6 Billion 520 Bridge?”

  1. Can we please PLEASE tell everyone to now knock it off in saying that rail is way too expensive in this region?

  2. Nobody will listen though because rail is “old” and “outdated”.

    So let’s see, 6.6 billion for 520 (not including roadway improvements between I-5 and the end of SR-520)

    $4 billion for the Alaskan Way Viaduct at it’s max

    $11 billion for the I-405 improvements

    $3 billion for I-90 improvements on Snoqualmie…

    Yep, roads are cheap!

    So only $24.6 billion just for those improvements….

    We really need to do a series (Calling Andrew) on just the total cost of road improvements that have been and need to be done to the region compared to light-rail and commuter rail.

    1. Wow, $24.6 billion is a lot of cabbage!

      So just how much transit and intercity rail could we build for the same price?

      Though I suspect there really is no way to avoid the 520 bridge replacement. State law makes it all but impossible to turn this into a rail/bus-only bridge and “do without” really isn’t an option even with East Link.

  3. Wouldn’t they save a LOT of money if they replaced the SR 520 bridge with a *TWO LANE* light rail bridge, running at high frequency? If they removed the cars entirely, they could fit the new route within the footprint of the old bridge and bridge approaches, and even have room to spare. And move more people, too!

    My suggestion is to completely take over SR 520.

    This would require bellmouths from University Link, which is the expensive part — and which should be planned NOW, before University Link is built — and a run up to the surface, with a station where SR 520 currently is just north of E. Lake Washington Boulevard. (I advise a station because the rail tunnel link will clearly be to the south, and otherwise there would be a lot of backtracking for people headed from the east to the University.)

    After that, the light rail could simply take over SR 520 all the way to approximately I-405, with a station at Evergreen Point Rd., small park-and-rides at Hunts Point Rd. and 92nd Ave., and a gigantic park-and-ride / bus station somewhere between SR 908 and I-405 (designed to funnel all traffic from the east into it, and to distribute people coming from the west). A little extra care could line up the light rail for a future connection with the Eastside rail line.

    I get the impression SR520 is mainly used by passengers, not by truckers — and that most of those passengers are heading either into or out of downtown Seattle. For this reason, replacing it with a rail line makes a lot of sense. The rail uses a lot less space and two tracks can carry a humungous number of people. While rail needs more structural strength *per lane* than roads, two lanes of rail should need a lot less structural strength that *six lanes* of road, and probably even less than four lanes of road.

    1. I was under the impression that truckers generally go around– south and north on 405 to get to the eastside.

    2. How about an autotrain like they have under the English Channel – force the cars onto autotrains and move them across that way?:)

      Roads are unbelievably expensive and they don’t get completed any faster than adding light rail. It will take 5 years from what I understand to complete the I-90 improvements between Snoqualmie and Hyak and this is a minimal distance, although we have to acknowledge that much of the work can only be done in the summer months.

      By the way, a road project at the junction of the I-97 over Blewett Pass and Highway 2 outside of Leavenworth opened recently and six months early – of course they have a longer construction season east of the Cascades.


  4. My idea was to have another light rail segment run out of Redmond (city center) and into Kirkland (city center) via Redmond Way. Once in Kirkland, the segment would turn south and join 520 about 1 or 1.5 miles from Eastgate. At the point of the juncture of rail and highway, 520 itself would widen and the rail would literally rise out of the ground in the center two “lanes”.

    520 would continue in such a fashion thru Eastgate, across the water, and until it met the western tower, wherein the two rail lanes would drop into a shallow tunnel somewhere just before Marsh Island, the highway narrowing at the point of departure. Rail would immediately turn North and join the UW station a few hundred yards away.

    In this manner, you
    1) Add capacity without encouraging even more self-defeating use of autombiles,
    2) Avoid expanding the footprint in Westside neighborhoods
    3) Avoid the need for a bigger intersection with I-5
    4) Minimize the disruption to wetlands
    5) Avoid creating monstrous aerial structures that degrade views (such as the plan that called for an exit to UW), and
    6) Dramatically cut down the travel time for those riding Link from North Seattle, who would otherwise have to pass through Capitol Hill and five downtown stations before crossing the lake at I-90 in order to get to Bellevue (And then they have to come up the entire length of southern Bellevue, from Factoria and Newport. It’s a very long route for someone from North Seattle…).

    I actually had a PPT walking deck with Google images for the plan, but I never pushed the idea that much. Whenever I had reps to talk to, I had enough on my hands just pushing for the existing ST plan.

    Maybe it’s time to dig up that walking deck again…

    1. Wait, you have trains going over a floating bridge? That doesn’t seem stable to me.

      1. Are you just kidding? I-90 is a floating bridge, too. :)

        The new 520 with bigger pontoons (as originally planned) would be able to support light rail.

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