WSDOT plans late 2018 start of 'The Rest of the West'

Major changes coming for Montlake interchange; market's future remains unclear

WSDOT plans late 2018 start of 'The Rest of the West'

WSDOT plans late 2018 start of 'The Rest of the West'

Around 200 people showed up to learn about the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Montlake Phase of the State Route 520 reconstruction project on April 17.

Also referred to as “The Rest of the West,” the Montlake Phase of SR-520 reconstruction — slated to begin in late 2018 — will make major changes to the Montlake interchange that includes a lid over 520 and a new West Approach Bridge South for eastbound traffic that will connect to the floating bridge over Lake Washington.

The design-build project has three shortlisted contractors that are due to make final proposals by mid-July, which will be scored before a decision is made this fall. Those candidates are a joint venture of Atkinson Construction and Traylor Bros, Inc., Graham Contracting LTD and Kiewit Manson.

SR-520 on-ramp in Arboretum

The future closure of the eastbound SR-520 on-ramp in the Washington Park Arboretum won’t happen anytime soon, and only after improvements are made to the Montlake interchange to provide motorists better access to the eastbound loop there.

During the early phase of construction, Montlake Boulevard East will be widened and an additional left-turn lane will be added on Montlake for accessing the eastbound on-ramp, said Ron Paananen, program engineering manager for the 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project. A third westbound lane on East Lake Washington Boulevard will also be added, for direct access to the new eastbound loop on-ramp. 

Traffic on SR-520 will also need to be shifted off the old West Approach Bridge South and on to the West Approach Bridge North, so the southern bridge can be removed and replaced.

A large problem with the existing West Approach Bridge South is that it has hollow columns that are vulnerable to earthquakes. New columns will include seismic isolation barriers, which will stabilize the bridge during such an event, said Steve Peer, communications manager with the 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project.

There are also plans for a land bridge east of 24th Avenue that will run over SR-520 and provided better pedestrian and bicyclist connectivity.

Montlake Boulevard Market

WSDOT is still working with the Seattle Department of Transportation to determine whether it’s possible to avoid acquiring and demolishing the Montlake Boulevard Market to use the land as a staging area for Montlake interchange improvements and a new lid over SR-520.

The Washington Legislature issued a legislative directive during its last session that requires the local and state transportation departments to find construction solutions that might preserve the popular neighborhood market.

Montlake Boulevard Market owner Scott Baker isn’t optimistic the transportation departments will find an alternative that spares his business.

“Our family’s had that since 1980,” Baker said.

A final environmental impact statement in 2011 had recognized community support for the market and didn’t plan for its condemnation. When WSDOT did a reevaluation in 2016, it realized it would need the property after all.

“It was a shock to us, obviously,” Baker said.

Challenging the loss of the market and several aspects of the project is the WSDOT Accountability Coalition, comprised of concerned neighbors and community groups.

There are currently three lawsuits pending at the local, state and federal level regarding a nighttime noise variance, the state traffic management plan and the final environmental impact statement.

“There’s so much support,” said Lynn Greunke, who manages the Montlake Boulevard Market. “I get several people asking, ‘What’s the latest? What’s happening with the market? We love the market.’”

A lawsuit filed by WSDOT after a deal to purchase the property couldn’t be reached is now going through an appeals process.

“They offered to move us,” said Baker, who had been working on a new 20-year lease and $1 million renovation plan before the property faced condemnation. “You can’t really move a business like ours.”

There are a number of reasons why WSDOT needs the property, said Todd Harrison, SR-520 Program deputy engineering manager.

The transportation department has to raise the Montlake lid and change the grade of the on- and off-ramps at the interchange, partly due to a sewer main running under SR-520, he said. If a sewer line running under the project site is ever damaged, the only way to replace it would be through the market property, Harrison said.

WSDOT will also need to dig a pit on the opposite side of the street to move a water line deeper. That means shifting traffic further west while work is being done.

Then the interchange will be concrete pavement, Harrison said, and WSDOT will need to keep traffic moving while that work is being done.

Harrison said the Montlake Phase will take about five years to complete once it starts, at which point WSDOT will begin work replacing the Portage Bay Bridge, and then adding a second drawbridge over the Montlake Cut.

Peer said WSDOT won’t be conducting another open house before the project starts, but it’s likely the selected project contractor will. The request for proposals on the project requires the contractor to provide an information center, he said, where the public can come to learn about the project and get questions answered. Find out more information and open house boards at the project website.

SR520DisplayBoard3OpenHouseMontlakePhaseOverview2018 by branax2000 on Scribd