The lid over the highway would dampen noise and provide pedestrians a connection to the north, toward the University of Washington and the new light rail station set to open in a year and a half.
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The lid over the highway would dampen noise and provide pedestrians a connection to the north, toward the University of Washington and the new light rail station set to open in a year and a half.
Credit: WSDOT

Montlake Residents To 520 Designers: Put A Lid On It

Montlake is one of Seattle’s wealthier neighborhoods, but also one of the city's noisiest, with a major highway running through it, owing to traffic from State Route 520.

That highway is under construction, and Washington state’s transportation department still needs more than a billion dollars to be able to connect a rebuilt 520 bridge to I-5. But that hasn’t stopped the agency from tweaking its designs.

Highway users and neighbors of the 520 bridge packed a community center in Montlake on Thursday to air their concerns, including that the state's proposed lid over much of the Montlake stretch of 520 could shrink.

That proposed lid over the highway would dampen noise and provide pedestrians a connection to the north, toward the University of Washington and the new light rail station set to open in a year and a half.

The newest design for 520 cuts nearly half off the length of a lid to the east of Montlake Boulevard.

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Transportation officials say the shorter lid is “smarter.” It has more useable green space on top, and they say it won’t make Montlake much louder.

Art Haug, who lives in Montlake, said, “Taking the lid off, I don’t know why they do that, I think it’s because they spent all the money on the Eastside.

Haug says the design from Montlake west to Portage Bay needs more work, not just because he lives there.

Haug: “This is the only dense urban neighborhood that this whole Redmond to I-5 goes through.”

Frank Buono lives in nearby Portage Bay, where he says 520 is “very, very loud. A continuous roar. ... Noise is a concern, a large concern, Also, I’d like the bridge to be least visible as possible.”

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Buono said noise and views were his main concerns.

Buono said a design unveiled Thursday night for a bridge across Portage Bay held up by tall support towers and cables would ruin views from the Portage Bay neighborhood.

“I’d like the bridge to be the least visible possible,” Buono said.

“The work is very much incomplete,” said Lionel Job with the Montlake Neighborhood Greenways Group. “All the connections on foot and bicycle on the west side of Montlake Boulevard have been completely ignored.”

The new designs include a tall, cabled bridge across Portage Bay and a pedestrian bridge across the Montlake Cut.

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The concerns of Seattle residents at the busy public meeting were all over the map, from aesthetics to traffic bottlenecks to climate change.

Transportation officials say the shorter lid is “smarter.” It has more useable open space on top and eliminates the need for four 20-foot-tall ventilation shafts and a maintenance building.

“We’ve done some preliminary analysis. There’s not going to be a significant increase in noise for anyone through the new lid concept,” said WSDOT engineering manager Kerry Pihlstrom.

While the eastern part of the neighborhood would get new open space and a landscaped “land bridge” trail spanning 520, pedestrians west of Montlake Boulevard would use a long tunnel.

Job called the proposed tunnel “totally unsuitable for young users or, for that matter, anyone who cares about safety in the evening.”

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“It’s just not the kind of place where you would want to walk,” he said.

Seattle City Council will get to weigh in on which direction to push the mega project in later this month.