Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Out with the old and in with the new: traffic to shift to new westbound SR 520 off-ramp on Jan. 6

By Haylee Morse-Miller

Long-time Washington residents will remember their first time on the scenic drive to Seattle from the Eastside on SR 520: crossing over the sparkling waters of Lake Washington, exiting the highway just as Seattle's Montlake neighborhood comes into view, and arriving at the tree-lined Lake Washington Boulevard East, where you wind through the natural wonders of the Washington Park Arboretum. It's a drive residents have been making for over 50 years, ever since the existing off-ramp from westbound SR 520 opened in 1963. But 2016 will bring a big change to this classic drive: on Jan. 6 the westbound off-ramp through the Washington Park Arboretum will close, creating a more natural and unobstructed view in the Arboretum - and making way for construction of the new, safer, west approach bridge. The new fixed bridge will connect Seattle's Montlake area with the SR 520 floating bridge on Lake Washington.

The Washington Park Arboretum and Montlake neighborhood in Seattle just before
construction of the original SR 520 bridge began in 1962.
Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives

In place of the soon-to-be closed Arboretum off-ramp, a new westbound off-ramp will open on Jan. 6. The new ramp will deliver drivers further west on Lake Washington Boulevard and utilize the 24th Avenue East bridge. From the time the new off-ramp opens until construction of the West Approach Bridge North wraps up in 2017, the new off-ramp will be in a temporary configuration to allow for ongoing construction. For now, an extra stop sign will be added at the top of the ramp to allow West Approach Bridge North construction vehicles to access a nearby work zone. Drivers will also use a new four-way stop once they've crossed the 24th Avenue East bridge, which allows them to turn left or right onto East Lake Washington Boulevard to reach their destination. The video below shows the flow of traffic in the new temporary configuration.

To shift traffic to the new off-ramp, crews will use an overnight closure of westbound SR 520 between 92nd Avenue Northeast to Montlake Boulevard from 11 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, to 5 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6.

To stay up-to-date on planned closure timing, check the SR 520 Orange Page or sign-up for the SR 520 West Approach Bridge North Project email updates. These communications will also inform you of weekend closures of SR 520 that are planned for coming months, as crews begin to remove the existing SR 520 off-ramp that accesses the Arboretum. Decommissioning the ramp will be a challenge as the ramp is built over water and travels over SR 520. But as the ramp is torn down, contractor crews will be able to continue installing in-water casings and building support columns - one of many steps to open a new, improved West Approach Bridge North in summer 2017.