Driving across Lake Washington on State Route 520, you don't see much progress toward construction of a new floating bridge. Some pilings are visible and a few concrete pontoons sit anchored offshore. The new bridge is not due to open until late 2015 at the earliest. But just to the east, a three-year highway project is nearing the finish.
Commuters headed to and from the bridge have been dealing with the loss of the carpool lane, temporary ramps and exits and re-configured lanes snaking through an active construction project.
"It's certainly a challenge, for the commuters but even more importantly for the local communities," said Fred Tharp, project director for the Washington State Department of Transportation.
"This is where they live and they need to drive through, they need to live with the construction noise and that's been a challenge." But it's getting better said Tharp. "Every day, three times a day, I drive this project and I can see on a daily basis the amount of progress we're making."
The more than $300 million Eastside approach work stretches from I-405 to the bridge entrance.
"From one end of the corridor to the other, which is 2.5 miles, you'll see new transit facilities, not just one but two new transit facilities, we have three large, lidded areas to reconnect the communities," said Tharp, standing above the highway project at Evergreen Point.
The work includes sound walls, fish passage, landscaping and an extensive system of bike-pedestrian trails.
Final paving is not done but Tharp says right now the highway lanes essentially follow the final path of the highway.
"You will start seeing that final shape of the highway emerging in the spring, you'll get two lanes each direction with large shoulders," explained Tharp. "They will then be commissioning the transit facilities into operation and then opening up the H.O.V. lane at that time."
Originally, the new floating bridge was supposed to open by the end of next year. That's now delayed, possibly into 2016. The new Eastside approach is on schedule to open next summer.