February 2013This week, WSDOT is unveiling a new plan for adding westbound lanes as 520 comes from the east into Montlake, without providing any mitigation to nearby communities. This plan is worse than we expected.
What is WABN?Because WSDOT does not have funding to complete the full expansion of 520 to I-5, they now plan to build a new bridge across Union Bay and into Seattle. This bridge is called WABN, or West Approach Bridge North. It will be much wider and higher than the existing bridge, and will carry 520 westbound traffic into Montlake. The existing bridge will remain in place, and will carry eastbound traffic. So there will be two bridges, one much higher than the other, across the water near the delicate wetlands, until funding is found to complete the project. Funding will probably require taxpayer approval, and may not come for decades.
WABN doubles the number of lanes coming into the Montlake-520 intersection without providing any relief to the city streets. It has a very complicated pattern of stopsigns and stoplights, and we expect that the intersection simply won't be able to carry the volumes that are coming into it.
Here are the only two drawings so far available of WABN.
- WABN will last until funding is found to expand 520 from Montlake to Seattle. This will be at least a few years, and could be 10 years or 20 years.Our comments to elected officials
- WABN puts all the 520 traffic on Montlake Blvd, without providing Seattle any funds to improve or expand the boulevard. The intersection of 520 and Montlake Blvd is already so congested that it is defined as a "failed" intersection (one that can't handle the traffic going through it), and WABN will make it much worse.
(WSDOT says that the intersection won't get more traffic; but why is the state spending hundreds of millions of dollars if the expansion here is not needed? It is impossible to believe that the proposed changes will not lead to more congestion.)
- It is already very difficult to walk or bike through this intersection, and no plans are shown to make it better, so the additional lanes will make it worse. WSDOT admitted today that bike and pedestrian movement "needs work". But such work is not planned or funded.
- It will be very difficult to get into the Shelby- Hamlin area and the neighborhood near East Lake Washington Blvd.
- Expanding East Lake Washington Blvd to carry more lanes of traffic turns a residential area into a freeway on/off ramp directly in front of residences, while removing trees that currently protect them.
- We believe that the new traffic flows and the additional stoplights will increase the backups on eastbound 520 all the way from Montlake to I-5, and that Montlake Blvd will be so congested that the traffic snarls will back up onto Capitol HIll, Eastlake, the University DIstrict, Wedgewood, and Laurelhurst.... thus making walking and biking more difficult. A large segment of dense neighborhoods will be harmed.
- WABN is quite different from what was shown in the EIS, which is supposed to be the controlling document. There are big changes. Among other things, the EIS promises that mitigation will be an integral part of constructing each area, but all mitigation is removed here. There is no lid at Montlake and no noise reduction is promised.
- WABN does all the damage to the communities nearby without any of the promised mitigation. There is no lid at Montlake, and no noise abatement is promised except on the WABN bridge itself.
WABN should not be built until there is a full design and full funding from the highrise to I-5, and that the full design must include bike/ped/greenway travel as well as funding for improving the Seattle surface street traffic flow.
- If WABN is built in spite of its flaws, the Coalition strongly urges that there be immediate noise abatement on the whole west side. This noise reduction should take place immediately, without waiting for funding the rest of the 520 expansion. It should include enforcement of the 45 mph speed limit starting at the highrise all the way to I5, as promised in the EIS, noise buffering on the sides of and under the highway, new pavement, and other techniques recommended by the expert panel on noise.
- WSDOT must fund all the work to un-do the damages it is causing: restore and improve bike/ped connections and greenways, improve traffic flow, and above all, reduce noise.
- WABN is WSDOT creating problems for the city and taking no responsibility for them; reducing livability of healthy communities; and dstroying the environment, to no advantage.