SEATTLE -- The new 520 bridge project is all about big numbers: 115,000 vehicles a day cross the bridge, which is twice as many as the structure was designed for in 1963.
The cost to replace the 520 bridge is $4.65 billion. One group, including Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, opposes the current bridge replacement plan. They want light rail on the new bridge, which is not part of the plan.
"Let's take another, closer look at this bridge. Let's take another look at what we're planning, and let's get it right, not just for ourselves but for our children," said McGinn.
The City of Seattle has now hired a San Francisco-based consultant to review the bridge design and come up with recommendations by April. The firm will look at ways to mitigate neighborhood impacts, reduce traffic congestion points and improve transit connections. They will also look at ways of building light rail over the bridge.
On Tuesday, Microsoft came out with a full page ad in The Seattle Times, saying "Let's Move" and keep the project going.
In addition to the newspaper ad, Microsoft held a press conference where they robustly put forward their case that the bridge needs to be built, starting this year.
"If we can build a four-lane bridge for cars with two lanes for light rail, we'll be building a project that will win acceptance throughout the region," said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
Five thousand Microsoft workers cross the 520 bridge each day. The mayor believes that Microsoft and Bill Gates should support light rail on SR520. McGinn points to a speech Gates made last month calling for a zero carbon footprint.
"This is the kind of shift that I think Bill Gates is calling for when he talks about global warming," he said.
"It needs to be replaced now because it's 47 years old," said Brad Smith, Microsoft. "It has twice as many vehicles on it every day, as was ever intended and it's vulnerable in the event of a severe winter storm or an earthquake... If things go wrong some day, and there's a natural disaster, we're all going to wake up in the morning and ask ourselves: What were we thinking?"
Microsoft says it has a big stake in the bridge for obvious reasons.
"As a company, we have over 5,000 employees, who every day drive across the 520 bridge to get to work in the morning or get home in the evening. Many other businesses are reliant on the bridge as well," said Smith.
But some people who live near the bridge are ready to keep fighting, to make sure a light rail line is included, which right now isn't part of the Washington Department of Transportation's plan.
"All of the people in all of these neighborhoods here are not going to sit quietly and have something done. It will be delayed for many years to come," says light rail advocate Fran Conley.
Public hearing and open house
The public is invited to attend a hearing and open house for 520 bridge project tonight in Seattle. People can voice their opinions on the I-5 to Medina Bridge Replacement and HOV Project.
Time: 5-7 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, Feb. 23
Location: Lake Union Park Naval Reserve Building, 860 Terry Ave. N., Seattle.