Alternative chosen for Magnolia Bridge replacement

Years of public meetings and analysis work done by the Seattle Department of Transportation ended March 16 with the announcement that the mayor's office has chosen an alternative for replacing the aging and earthquake-damaged Magnolia Bridge.

Making the cut was Alternative A. It calls for the construction of a new bridge just to the south of the existing one, according to SDOT spokeswoman Marybeth Turner, who added that Mayor Greg Nickels based his decision on SDOT recommendations.

The estimated cost of the preferred alternative was $196 million, which is cheaper than two other remaining alternatives that-at $213 million and $214 million-would have been located north of the existing structure.

The decision hasn't been finalized yet, but SDOT is considering a realignment for the preferred bridge routing so that an anticipated $32 million for rights-of-way costs could be eliminated, said Turner.

That would bring the cost of Alternative A to $164 million, which is far cheaper than rehabilitating the bridge for $178 million, she said. In addition, the costs of ongoing maintenance would have made the rehab option even more expensive in the long run than the original $196 million cost for the preferred alternative, Turner said. "And the community didn't like that (rehab) option, either," she added.

The chosen alternative was also favored by Interbay businesses under the bridge because it would provide more certainty to existing and prospective businesses in the area, Turner said. The Anthony's Seafood warehouse could still end up having to move under the chosen alternative, according to an SDOT environmental analysis prepared last year.

By contrast, the northern alternatives would have forced the relocation of up to three businesses, along with Anthony's potentially. The concern over business disruptions and higher costs were pitted against relatively short construction schedules that would have been eight to 14 months in one case and six to 12 months in the other.

Construction of Alternative A will take anywhere from 14 to 20 months to complete, compared with 21 to 27 months to rehabilitate the old bridge.

Magnolia Bridge traffic originally was going to be forced on to the Emerson and Dravus street bridges, but SDOT has managed to soften the blow, according to Turner. "They were able to work with the Port (of Seattle) for getting a detour route on the surface," she said.

Paying for the bridge project is still an issue at a time when there is stiff competition for transportation dollars, Turner concedes. "Funding is a big 'if' at this point," she said. "It would no doubt be federal and state sources."

It is also possible that some city money could be used for the project, but a design for the new bridge needs to be completed before any requests for funding to any agency are submitted, Turner said. "That's still a ways away."

Assuming funding is available, the soonest construction could begin would be in 2009, according to SDOT.[[In-content Ad]]