Washington Officials Expect New SH 520 Bridge by 2014

Sat March 22, 2008 - West Edition
Manuel Valdes - ASSOCIATED PRESS



OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) A new floating bridge for State Highway 520 may be completed by 2014, two years faster than previously projected, Gov. Chris Gregoire said March 3.

The new timeline may save the state $500 million to $700 million in interest and inflation, slimming the project’s budget from $4.3 billion to possibly $3.7 billion.

The current Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington is one of two connecting Seattle and its eastside suburbs.

The 44-year-old bridge is in danger of sustaining significant damage, even collapse, during severe weather.

The state Department of Transportation shaved two years off the previous bridge completion estimate of 2016 by moving the start of pontoon construction to next year, and beginning construction on improvements that don’t depend on the new bridge being in place, mostly intersections between Highway 520 and Interstates 5 and 405.

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond also announced the department has picked Grays Harbor as the site where the pontoons will be built. Some construction will take place in Tacoma as well, she said.

The announcement came after Gregoire pushed the agency to come up with a new timeline.

The new timeline also estimates that construction on the entire Highway 520 corridor, from I-5 in Seattle across the lake to I-405 in Bellevue, will be completed by 2016, two years sooner than the previous estimate of 2018.

The Legislature’s minority Republicans have been advocating for a new Lake Washington bridge by 2013 all session.

It will be up to next year’s legislative session to decide how tolls will be used, Gregoire said.

A bill moving through the Legislature would create a study group to explore tolling possibilities and impact, including tolls on the Interstate 90 bridge across the lake. The study group will report back in December.

Dealing with the Highway 520 bridge issue has been one of Gregoire’s priorities this session, and the governor threw her support behind tolls as a means to pay for half of the project.