CHOKEPOINTS

An exclusive look at Seattle’s 520 bridge project from the construction platform

Sep 9, 2021, 5:24 AM | Updated: 5:36 pm

I was able to tour the 520 bridge construction zone over Lake Washington on Wednesday. I am fortunate to be the first reporter allowed onto the work platform, and I can tell you that the view was amazing.

SR 520 Bridge tolls expected to rise to make up for COVID shortfall

It only took a short walk through what used to be the north end of the arboretum, and up to the construction zone east of Montlake. The Washington Department of Transportation’s Steve Peer was my guide as we walked up to a wooden trestle and out over Lake Washington.

“We are on a work trestle, specifically built to build the eastbound lanes between the Montlake Lid and the floating bridge,” Peer said as we arrived.

This wooden trestle serves as the work platform adjacent to the where the bridge is being built. There are concrete columns rising up out of the water, surrounded by lily pads and milfoil. Ducks and geese swim along, almost oblivious to the work being done.

This is a quiet time for the project because of fish spawning nearby, so it was quite peaceful with only a handful of people working on the trestle. Peer said this design cuts down on noise pollution and environmental damage.

“It’s environmentally more friendly,” he said. “The neighbors liked it better because we weren’t doing these big drill shafting for the columns. It was really an innovative approach to construction.”

Drivers on 520 can’t see what’s happening along this trestle because it is blocked by concrete, but they have certainly noticed the giant blue cranes, all four of them, that tower above the construction. They look like “Recognizers” from the movie Tron.

They can move back and forth along the work trestle, carrying just about anything.

“Sometimes they work in pairs and sometimes they work alone,” Peer said. “What they do is the heavy lifting over the construction. They are just working from above instead of, maybe traditionally, a lot of bridges get built from below.”

Montlake Bridge opens after month-long closure, more closures still ahead

It will take until 2024 before this new eastbound bridge connecting Montlake and the floating bridge opens to the public.

“When done, it will look, from the air, just like a twin of the westbound lanes,” Peer said.

The new bridge and the complete 3-acre Montlake lid over 520 will open about the same time in 2024.

Here’s what’s coming up next for the lid: Montlake Boulevard drivers are getting used to the new configuration. They were just moved onto a portion of the lid this month.

Workers are getting ready to move the westbound exits to Montlake and Lake Washington Boulevard onto the new lid. Once that’s done early next year, workers will begin demolishing the ramp that connected that exit to Lake Washington Boulevard. They will also start taking down the old Montlake Boulevard overpass.

The lid will then be extended to the east and the west to take up that space. Eventually, there will be a 3-acre lid, complete with a new transit center. The state is also building a bike and pedestrian bridge to complete the trail across the lake.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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An exclusive look at Seattle’s 520 bridge project from the construction platform