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State Announces Preferred 520 Plan

Carolyn Beeler

Governor Chris Gregoire visited Seattle to announce the state's preferred plan for the 520 bridge yesterday. The aging bridge is in danger of collapsing and officials say it needs to be replaced as soon as possible. KUOW's Carolyn Beeler has the story.


This week, the 520 bridge is one step closer to construction as the state reveals its so–called preferred plan. The bridge will have two lanes for carpools and busses in addition to four lanes for single passenger cars. The new plan adds bus lanes at key intersections and no longer calls for ramps through the Arboretum.

Gregoire: "This is the right bridge for our region today. It gives us the flexibility we need for our future, it's time to move the project forward. Every delay is simply more money. This is the right time, we've done the best we could, I hope people will respect that. "

The Seattle City Council says it is happy with the plan — it incorporates most of the changes the council brought before the Governor a few weeks ago. Those include improved pedestrian and bicycle access and measures for reducing noise near the Montlake Interchange.

The current plan does not include light rail, which Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has pushed for. But Governor Gregoire says the bridge is designed so it can be added in the future.

Gregoire: "520 will be ready for light rail. Light rail is not ready for 520. We don't fund light rail, that's not the state, that's Sound Transit. They don't have a plan, they don't have any funding, so it's up to them to come up with a plan and the funding for the future."

The state, Seattle City Council and the Washington Department of Transportation all stressed the importance of beginning work quickly, while it's still cheap to start new building projects.

But Montlake neighborhood advocate Jonathan Dubman says the changes to the plan don't fix any of the failures of previous versions. He says building another Montlake drawbridge, which is included in the new plan, will do nothing to ease congestion or improve mass transit.

Dubman: "Building a second Montlake Bridge next to the current one is like building a second Space Needle next to the current Space Needle. It doesn't solve any problem, it costs money that doesn't exist, and it would forever change the view of and the view from one of our most treasured landmarks."

Having a preferred plan will help the state finish its environmental impact statement and finalize design and construction plans. Gregoire says the project will cost almost $4.7 billion and is on track to be completed by 2014.

For KUOW News, I'm Carolyn Beeler.

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