Friday, December 15, 2017

SR 520 Trail: WSDOT maintenance plays a key role in upkeep

By Steve Peer

On December 20, 2017, WSDOT will celebrate a major milestone NOT involving cars or other motorized transportation. That day will be the first time bicyclists and pedestrians from the Eastside and Seattle’s neighborhoods will be able to connect using the new SR 520 trail. Crossing the lake on the north side of the bridge, people walking and rolling will have unprecedented views as they trek from the Eastside to Seattle or vice versa.  Our traffic engineers estimate that about 1,000 riders and pedestrians will use the path on a daily basis.

The Eastside half of the floating bridge path has been opened for more than a year but has only been an “out and back” experience on the floating bridge.  Now that the project that connects westbound lanes from the floating bridge to Montlake is built, WSDOT is ready to unveil the new cross-lake path. Before opening it, one of the final steps will be a fresh sweep of the path to get it in shape by cleaning the leaves and other debris that collected on the path since the first half opened last year.

Large enough to clean the highway yet small enough to clean the SR 520 Trail, Broom Hilda is part of WSDOT’s important maintenance fleet.

Enter Broom Hilda: the SR 520 sweeper. 
About two years ago, @WSDOT_520 Twitter followers named the sweeper just before we opened the floating bridge. Large enough to sweep travel lanes on SR 520 and small enough to sweep the adjacent bike and pedestrian trail, the cute but capable sweeper has found a place in WSDOT’s maintenance fleet. Since we opened the floating bridge, Broom Hilda had been relegated to cleaning SR 520 lanes and the path east of the floating bridge. Once the trail opens, the sweeper will literally clear the path for non-motorized users to cross nearly three miles over Lake Washington between the Eastside and the Montlake neighborhood. Broom Hilda’s initial run across the trail this week will be tough – this time of the year nature throws a lot of debris our way.

Broom Hilda will continue to be a workhorse for the SR 520 corridor. The sweeper is scheduled to clean the SR 520 lanes once a month (75,000 vehicles a day use SR 520 and create quite a mess) and the shared use path three times a year: spring, summer and fall.

Trees the root of other trail challenges 
Tree roots continue to be a challenge for the path east of the floating bridge. Living in the northwest, we are constantly trying to balance the benefits of trees and our desire to be near them.

Because the path is adjacent to trees, it’s often a victim of roots that want to force their way through the path, creating an uneven surfaces. We do our best to stay on top of them – often repairing parts of the path punctured by them. This year our crews spent four days repairing a section between West Lake Sammamish in Redmond and 148th at Overlake. There are still more sections that need to be torn up and repaved so we’ll continue to do that work as time and funding permits.

What you can do
If you see problems with the path, please let us know. We’ll pinpoint the problem and do our best to address it. Your best bet to let us know is to snap a picture and e-mail it to

We’re excited we are continuing to add trails that connect communities. Happy trails to you!


jno62 said...

It would be great if Broom Hilda could make a 3rd pass down the middle of the trail. I noticed the other day the sides had been swept, but there was a lot of gravel sitting out in the trail. A 3rd pass would get the gravel that gets kicked into the middle of the trail.


WSDOT said...

jno62 - Your post is very timely because tonight (12/19) Broom Hilda will be out sweeping the SR 520 trail. We’ll forward your suggestion directly to our maintenance team.

BGH said...

How often does Broom Hilda sweep? I was crossing 520 a week ago on the bike path and it looked like it hadn't been swept for a few months.

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