Community coalition — with help from north Cap Hill — sues to stop 520 replacement

View more design images on the WSDOT project page

The Sustainable 520 group, including the North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association, has been threatening a legal fight against the state’s plan for replacing the Seattle-side of the SR 520 bridge for more than a year. This month, as construction planning is beginning to gear up on the project, the lawyers have swung into action. In a lawsuit filed in Washington’s Federal District Court on September 2nd, the Coalition for a Sustainable 520 has sued the state and the Federal Department of Transportation to stop the current plans for replacing the route through the Arboretum, Montlake and to I-5.

“The Coalition has members who live, own property, work, play and travel in and around the proposed SR 520 project,” the suit reads. “These members would be adversely impacted by the multiple, significant adverse impacts generated by the project, including without limitation, the project’s adverse impacts on traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists, air quality, water quality, open space, recreation, historic and cultural resources, fish, wildlife, and other elements of the built and natural environment.”

CHS first reported on the brewing battle pitting neighborhood groups vs. Olympia back in May.

The lawsuit asks the court to require WSDOT and the Feds to re-do the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project and require that no permits be issued for the project until a new supplemental impact report is complete.

The Seattle PI has detailed some of the opposition to the state’s plan for a 6-lane bridge running through Montlake:

Some along the Seattle shoreline thought the state unfairly dismissed the idea of building a new four-lane bridge and reducing traffic by tolling and optimizing transit service across the lake. They question whether the state should have considered just making safety improvements to the existing bridge instead of building a new one in tight financial times. 

According to the state’s EIS, rebuilding a four-lane bridge was rejected because tolls would have needed to be as high as $5.50 one way to sufficiently unclog the bottlenecks that occur today on the narrower bridge. At that rate, enough traffic would shift to Interstate 90 to put that bridge over its capacity, according to the EIS.

Further complicating matters, a study released last week predicts that a greater-than-expected number of drivers would stop using 520 if tolls are set as high as has been planned.

This summer’s vote on the waterfront deep bore tunnel not withstanding, Seattle’s history includes some significant incidents of community opposition to massive state road projects.

Sustainable 520 says it represents communities including Montlake, north Capitol Hill, Roanoke Park/Portage Bay, Laurelhust, Madison Park and the “Boating Community.”

Judge Ricardo Martinez will preside over the case. No hearings have yet been scheduled.

Bridge Closure
Unrelated to the lawsuit, of course, the 520 bridge will be closed again this coming weekend for maintenance:

Plan ahead: SR 520 bridge will be closed Sept. 16-19
Where is the closure? Both directions of the SR 520 floating bridge and highway and all ramps between Montlake Boulevard and I-405 will be closed starting at 11 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday. Bellevue Way Northeast will also be closed in Bellevue between Northeast 32nd Place and Northup Way from midnight Friday through midnight Satuday while bridge demolition under way.

What will remain open? SR 520 will remain open between Montlake Boulevard and I-5. In Bellevue, the 108th Avenue Northeast on-ramp to eastbound SR 520 will remain open and in Seattle, the Montlake Boulevard ramps to and from SR 520 will remain open.


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9 thoughts on “Community coalition — with help from north Cap Hill — sues to stop 520 replacement

  1. As an Eastsider who’s been in favor of every 520 improvement from East Redmond to I-5, I can understand why the “sustainable 520” coalition is blocking progress in Seattle: few of you work over here; most of you have no idea the value Eastsiders bring the greater Seattle area.

    Our “NIMBY” approach is legend, and has served to block untold billions in infrastructure investments. These have, in turn, helped stunt our economic growth in ways you’ve got no need to understand. Boston’s “Big Dig” – one of our favorite examples of huge projects gone wrong – has impacted greater Boston’s growth to the tune of $25 billion a year accelerated GDP growth. That, my friends, is a ONE YEAR Return On Investment.