Monday, May 7, 2018

SR 520 construction: Recapping our Montlake Phase open house

By Steve Peer

We recently held an open house to preview State Route 520's upcoming Montlake Phase of construction in Seattle, and judging by the great turnout, our project is generating a lot of interest among local residents and commuters. For those who couldn't make it to the meeting, we captured some questions and concerns people shared with us that evening and boiled down our responses.

When does the Montlake Phase start?
We expect to announce the contractor this fall and begin construction toward the end of 2018. We anticipate this $400 million project to be completed in four to five years.
This graphic depicts SR 520 corridor elements at completion of the Montlake Phase.
Major project elements are labeled above.

Are you going to remove the Montlake Market and 76 gas station?
We need to acquire the property where these businesses lie for a variety of purposes, including the construction of a Montlake lid and a new interchange, and to construct utility and street upgrades. At this time, it appears unlikely we can construct these improvements without affecting the market building. However, we're reviewing all construction requirements in this area, and we'll work with the selected design-build contractor later this year to see if it's possible to construct the Montlake Phase elements without removing the market building. We recognize the market's importance to many neighboring residents, but at the same time, we must serve the needs of the traveling public and replace aging, structurally vulnerable highway infrastructure within a highly constrained urban area.

You said you needed the Montlake Market property for staging construction equipment and materials. Can't you do that somewhere else?
As we noted above, we need the market property for numerous reasons, including:
  • Construction of the adjacent Montlake lid
  • Replacement of a large water main that runs under SR 520
  • Reconstruction of Montlake Boulevard
  • Temporary traffic shifts when rebuilding Montlake Boulevard
  • Building wider sidewalks and trail connections in the immediate vicinity
We plan to stage equipment and materials at the market property and elsewhere on our property – including on the WSDOT Peninsula near the Arboretum and at the former Museum of History and Industry site.

Why are you removing the eastbound SR 520 on-ramp through the Arboretum?
The main reason is the community's desire to enhance the Washington Park Arboretum by removing this structure. The ramp-removal decision followed years of public engagement, community and legislative meetings, and environmental study. Support for removing all highway ramps in the Arboretum came from local residents, community organizations, and Seattle's mayor and City Council. Ultimately, the Legislature and Federal Highway Administration approved the SR 520 plan that calls for the ramps' removal.

Will removal of the on-ramp in the Arboretum cause traffic congestion in the Montlake neighborhood?
Before the Arboretum ramp is removed, we'll make a number of improvements, such as:
  • Adding an additional general-purpose lane to the existing eastbound "loop" on-ramp at Montlake Boulevard
  • Creating a second left-turn lane from northbound Montlake Boulevard onto the eastbound loop on-ramp
  • Adding a westbound lane of car-queuing capacity to East Lake Washington Boulevard, near the Montlake interchange, that feeds directly into the improved loop on-ramp.
These capacity improvements will accommodate the traffic that shifts from the old Arboretum ramp to the Montlake Boulevard ramp.

Are you going to prohibit nighttime work so people living closest to the highway aren't disturbed by construction noise?
Because Montlake Boulevard is the third-busiest arterial in Seattle, our contractor crews need to perform some work at night to limit disruptions to weekday traffic. Also, both for workers and for the traveling public, some work is safer to do at night with limited or no traffic. Our nighttime work during the upcoming Montlake Phase will be regulated under a noise variance granted by the City of Seattle on April 26, 2018.

What does the city's noise variance do?
The variance sets specific limits – measured in decibels – on the level of noise crews can make between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. on weekends and holidays. In general, noise limits for nighttime work are significantly lower than daytime construction noise. For example, the city's variance prohibits especially loud construction activities at night, such as pile driving, jack hammering, and backup beepers on construction vehicles.

How will you enforce the variance and its noise limits?
We will install digital noise meters around the project area at specific neighborhood locations to record noise levels, in decibels, around the clock, 365 days per year. We'll provide the noise readings to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections as part of the city's monitoring efforts. Also, we will hire an independent noise specialist to be on site during all nighttime work. The specialist will report any violations or neighborhood complaints to the city. Residents can report noise complaints to our 24-hour hotline. In addition, our design-build contractor will produce a Noise Management and Mitigation Plan that spells out the procedures crews will follow to comply with the city's noise variance.

Will the SR 520 Montlake flyer stops be closed during construction?
For the safety of transit riders, the contractor will need to close the freeway-level flyer stops during construction. We estimate they'll close in spring 2019. Bus stops on Montlake Boulevard and at the Montlake Triangle, near Husky Stadium, will remain open, as will the U-Link light rail station. We're working with the transit agencies to identify opportunities to assist affected riders during construction. Once construction is complete, new regional bus stops will open at street level on the Montlake lid. Stay tuned for updates.

Will the Montlake Phase improvements change the corridor's transit service?
When the Montlake Phase is completed, there will be several transit improvements that support safer and more reliable bus service along the SR 520 corridor. Some of the key enhancements include:
  • Transit/HOV lanes from Redmond to the Montlake area
  • Direct-access ramps on and off the highway at the new Montlake lid with direct connections to regional and local bus stops
  • Improved bus waiting and transfer areas on the new Montlake lid
  • Better path connections to buses and light rail for pedestrians and bicyclists

Artist rendering of a new Montlake lid's transit plaza.

Will the shared-use path on the 24th Avenue East overpass close again for bicyclists and pedestrians?
For the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians, we anticipate that the contractor likely will need to close the overpass in order to rebuild 24th Avenue East and incorporate it into the new Montlake lid. The contractor will determine the timing and duration of this closure.

How does the Montlake Phase work tie in with the "Rest of the West"?
The Montlake Phase is part the remaining SR 520 projects known as the Rest of the West. The work involves total replacement of the existing four-lane highway with a six-lane roadway containing transit/HOV lanes in both directions, highway lids in Seattle's Montlake and Roanoke neighborhoods, the south half of a new west approach bridge, a new Portage Bay Bridge, and a second drawbridge over the Montlake Cut.

Rest of the West project overview

How long is all this work going to last?
With complicated work from the new floating bridge to I-5, including long over-water bridges while keeping traffic moving, we anticipate that the Rest of the West will take about 10 years to complete. The 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package funds projects throughout the state, including $1.6 billion for the SR 520 project. The SR 520 funds are spread out through the 2027-2029 biennium.

Where do I get more information?
We've posted the open house display boards on the SR 520 website. If you have additional questions about the Montlake Phase or any other facet of SR 520 construction can send us an email at


dex3703 said...

Thanks for this great summary.

jvit said...

SDOT's explanation/description of the reason why the 520 Arbo On-Ramp is being eliminated is total fabrication. I have lived in Madison Park since 1967, and neither I nor any of my neighbors were offered opportunity to comment on this decision before it was a "done deal". Talk about "Backroom politics", this was all about a few insiders making decisions without input from the community.

migueldc said...

How many vehicles currently use the arboretum entrance to get on 520 East? What route do you expect these vehicles will use to get on 520 East once the arboretum on-ramp is removed? How is this going to affect traffic on Boyer between the arboretum and 23rd Ave E? How long before people start using the small streets in the area defined by Madison, 23rd Ave E, SR-520, and the arboretum as a way to avoid 23rd Ave E traffic? Will the Montlake 520 East on-ramp be able to accommodate the new traffic? Will the various 24th Ave intersections in Montlake be able to accommodate the new traffic generated by the removal of the arboretum on-ramp? Do you expect the traffic going north on 24th Ave E to come up to a bottleneck at the Montlake bridge? If so, won't this traffic backup way South of the 520 interchange, blocking access to the Montlake 520 East ramp?

Montsupporter said...

Without a doubt the traffic will back up way south of the 520 Montlake interchange. Every morning and every afternoon during rush hour, it requires many light changes at the E. Roanoke/Montlake Blvd (24th St) intersection to turn left onto Montlake Blvd. Even with two left turn lanes onto eastbound 520, the traffic will continue to back up into the "town" of Montlake, thereby encouraging cars to drive through the neighborhood to bypass the backup on the main streets. The construction and this traffic pattern will inevitably compound the current situation such that you're not going to want to leave your house for the next decade or so...

datukalex said...

We can all look forward to 10 years of slow rolling disaster with nothing useful emerging. No Arbo on-ramp, no major expansion of capacity (would anyone even be so bold as to say this plan addresses TODAY's capacity issues, let-alone those of 10 years in the future?), a lid park which will become a 'camp', and suspended bus service. Yay! Sounds great! Where do I sign up?? Oh, you signed us all up without a chance for comments while comments could have still had an impact. At least I can look forward to a nicely designed park-and-ride that will serve hundreds who would love to make the short drive to Montlake and take the bus to their east side destinations. Wait...

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