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Seattle hires consultant to look at 520 bridge plan

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by TIM ROBINSON & LINDA BRILL / KING5 News

Posted on February 23, 2010 at 6:36 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 23 at 6:39 PM

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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. 

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logic14 said on February 23, 2010 at 6:40 AM

Not including LIGHTRAIL is insane.

baldeagle said on February 23, 2010 at 6:56 AM

If Microsoft wants a new bridge,They should write a check for it!

sumner_son said on February 23, 2010 at 7:01 AM

Is anyone else extremely tired of the fact that we have so many "stakeholders" concerning these projects nowdays? In the past, the highway department said "we're going to build a road or bridge", and they went ahead an did it. For the public good. Now it's nothing but a bunch of whiners who get together, and each one say why they DON'T want something built or done. Progression? No! Time to start bulldozing through these "neighborhoods", give 'em a few bucks for their homes, and get this road built.......FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD! No whiners, no NIMBYers, no "I don't like the way it looks". Too bad. Don't like it? Move!

quackula said on February 23, 2010 at 7:21 AM

I agree with baldeagle. Let Microsoft pay for it if they want a bridge so bad. They have the money put or shut up.

walkingseagull said on February 23, 2010 at 8:07 AM

sumner_son, I live in the sea tac, des moines area and seen way too many homes taken out for your idea of progress. Down here it is the completion of 509. A home neighborhood gone for some freeway (509) connection to i5 which I don't think will ever happen. Same thing for the airport. They tore down a huge perfectly fine apartment complex for a wharehouse and They tore down a hole neighborhood for something I still don't know what for because the land has been vancant for years. So I disagree with you completely.

factoid said on February 23, 2010 at 8:16 AM

'sumner_son' I totally agree. As for 'baldeagle', if you want to keep Microsoft and other businesses from expanding or in some cases not leaving the State, then you must provide infrastructure. Microsoft already pays millions in taxes not to mention the thousands of employees who also pay taxes. To expand on your idea though, how about Microsoft pay for, own and manage the bridge. I will bet they can do it a whole lot better than the State.

kingster said on February 23, 2010 at 8:23 AM

Microsoft has as much right as anyone to express themselves under our constitution, but the ad demonstrates that corporations are calling the shots. Maybe they shouldn't . They are people too, and just as capable of being wrong. Light rail will not carry a 100,000 passengers a day - not even anywhere near that. It's time to stop wasting money on large projects like this and get down to fixing our infrastructure before it has all fallen down. And while we're at it, we should use our grey matter and not be building tunnels across a geologically active fault zone or putting trains on floating bridges that can sink in a good storm.

stryker said on February 23, 2010 at 8:23 AM

Watch what you ask for.... If MS pays for/owns/manages the bridge, garanteed using it will not be free. Can you say Tacoma Narrows?

jasonj said on February 23, 2010 at 8:24 AM

If you want to sink the rest of this state into financial ruin, don't ork with your largest employers in meeting their needs. This istate is SO anti-business its pathetic. Boeing is gone (see stories on second assembly line) how long before Microsoft and others follow? Headquarters and plants can be moved. How much whining will you be doing when 1) the bridge sinks and 2) Microsoft and others disappear?

robertlhartman said on February 23, 2010 at 8:38 AM

27.69 years it would take charging 115,000 people 4 dollars a trip per day. And only 13.89 years if you charged 8 dollars per trip over the bridge. 16 dollars 6.9 years, 32 dollars 3.4 years, 64 dollars 1.7 years, and if you wanted to pay for the new bridge in less than a year, charge every person crossing the bridge 128 dollars .. That is, if 115000 per day still used the bridge after the charge.

kameha said on February 23, 2010 at 8:46 AM

you want to know why nothing gets done and millions of tax dollars are wasted in this state just look at Fran Conley and others like her. the fanatic right who believe they are always right and it's their way or no way. build the bridge already.

dakota001 said on February 23, 2010 at 9:05 AM

I agree that we need to provide infrastructure for our businesses, but I also believe that there should be light rail installed on any new 520 bridge that we build. Also the Democrats that are currently in office do not understand business needs very well as far as infrastructure and business environment/tax structure, so I feel that as long as they are in office, these much-needed projects will continue to be delayed, and when they do make movement on them, it is in the wrong direction, like the too-small downtown Seattle tunnel. Businesses and jobs will continue to slowly move out of Washington.

tacwilster said on February 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM

Build the bridge but only the people in King County should pay for it, I have never used the 520 bridge never plan on using it but my tax dollars have to pay for the elite/rich folks in Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, etc. Enough already if you want it pay for it but stop raping the rest of us who could care less if there even is a bridge, drive around!!! Just like those of us that do because we didn't want the Narrows bridge and we don't want to pay a company in CA to run it!!!

chuckstr76 said on February 23, 2010 at 9:18 AM

If king county wants a new bridge, let them and the people who use it pay for it, Not the rest of us...

gritz said on February 23, 2010 at 9:26 AM

Yes, lets spend more time to discuss this. Then by the time we make a decision the cost will go up another 200 million. Then we will have to wait some more to figure out how we are going to pay for that increase, which of course means more time and money. Then snap, we dig up a Indian bone and now we have to pay the tribes another 20 million and by then a new mayor comes in and he has his own idea of what we need.Lucky for us, Microsoft leaves and we nolonger need to improve the bridge.

siusir said on February 23, 2010 at 9:35 AM

I am not one to admit overbearing governments in foreign countries, but some do get things (build up infrastructure) rather quickly. Just the time it took our state government to work out the present plan (no counting the numerous lawsuits thats sure to follow) for the 520 replacement or addition, China (a country with a rather overbearing government) has built over 3000 miles of high speed railways, 1000 bridges and who knows how many miles of highways. I know, many of you would say I'm comparing apples and oranges; which is somewhat true. But dang-it, we need a new 520 period. If we as a country is to remain world-class then we need to stop placating those narrow special-interest groups and move on with rebuilding our country from the ground up (that includes infrastructures). Seattle in particular has been held hostage far too long by these special "local" interest. To heck with them! Get this bridge built now!

graham said on February 23, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Good let microsoft pay for it

daveinmerlin said on February 23, 2010 at 10:43 AM

While most like to blame Microsoft and other large corporations, Look at Microsoft's campus in Nanaimo, B.C. Lots of room to expand and a business friendly community, Washington wake up, I see the light... Microsoft will be out, just like Boeing.

kosba said on February 23, 2010 at 10:48 AM

Take a look at the current 520 bridge to see what happens when Seattle neighhorhood "activitsts" get involved. Nothing ever gets completed in Seattle because the people only care about themselves and there is no long-term vision - typical extreem liberal thinking. The bottom line is that this is a state project that supports major employers, education (UW), and commerce.. It needs to to support HOV (not bus only) and be expandable to support light rail. This is the type of forward thinking that is supported regionally, not the backward not-in-my-backyard thinking from the select few in Broadmoor and Madison Partk (and a bozo mayor). Time to step up and silence these people who think they can control us just because they choose to live near a major highway and threaten to sue if we don't bend to their will.

intrestgal said on February 23, 2010 at 11:11 AM

We have all seen the mess on the 520 Bridge - It isn't just Microsoft people driving on this bridge folks. The so called "rich" Bellevue and Redmond people (I live in Redmond but am certainly NOT rich) use the bridge to get to work in downtown Seattle too. Yes, you do see alot of people using the bridge eastbound in the moring BUT ever think that they may also work in downtown Bellevue? The new overpass that was put over 520 connecting Microsofts East and West campus was partially funded by Microsoft. Now the Bridge is another story - If the only people using the Bridge were working at Microsoft we wouldn't need a larger or more efficent bridge because there wouldn't be as many cars each day. Lets just look at the big picture, the bridge is old, outdated and potentially dangerous - lets just bite the bullet and get the bridge replaced!!!!!

2cents said on February 23, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Microsoft is only concerned about Microsoft. Microsoft has never given a rats arse about Seattle, it's employees, or regional residents. They only care about money and dominance. Their strong support for the bridge plan convinces me that it is not in Seattle's best interest. The feds are already paying a huge sum toward the cost of building a 520 overpass between for Microsoft's benefit.

2cents said on February 23, 2010 at 11:19 AM

daveinmerlin - you said it. MS already has many other campuses around the world. Even if we invest infrastructure for them, they will kick us in the teeth anyway. Overbuilt roads is not what drives capitalist companies like Microsoft. Our infrastructure here is fine, yet they export jobs and bring in H1B workers at an ever increasing pace. Let's cut our losses now. They'll follow Boeing anyway. They do not want to be labeled a NW company. Probably not even a U.S. company.

wsba6clerk said on February 23, 2010 at 11:23 AM

don't live in king county never will live in king county

2cents said on February 23, 2010 at 11:30 AM

What happened to the days that companies used to invest in US instead of blackmailing us to invest in THEM!?

wawolf said on February 23, 2010 at 11:45 AM

When will this state ever learn that bigger roads aren't the answer. They are over-capacity by the time they are built. We need to focus on mass transit options (light rail, clean buses, etc..). The idea that everyone can drive as the population expands is just not going to work. Yes we need a new 520 bridge, but let's make sure we include light rail or electric bus-only lanes.

pennie6106762487 said on February 23, 2010 at 11:47 AM

so they have a bridge they want to sell us?

bdghekfle said on February 23, 2010 at 12:31 PM

just get on with the bridge already before it colapses and kills abunch of people, what sad is in our nation it seems someone has to die in order to get things accomplished plus microsoft has a right to be involved there a very large company who contributes alot of tax dollars and money to our economy the last thing we should want is for them to relocate as well just like boing is.

drcyclops said on February 23, 2010 at 12:42 PM

To sumner_son: Years ago, a friend of mine had to move his whole family out of HIS family's home, for a freeway expansion project in California, because there was no option to voice ANY concerns, nowadays, we have people just like you, who obviously don't do any research on the subject. If you did, you would say something a lot more tactful. Those "whiners" moved here for some reason or another, a good one, when there was no apparent problems, over time, the state encroached on those "whiners" property, with some dumb project, or another. Fortunately, we "whiners" got the ability to advocate our situation, so we didn't just lose our lifetime investment to some politician's wet dream. You must be some "yes man" or something, they don't do any research either, they just agree with whatever their master's saying, and don't put any mental energy into whatever they say. How pathetic.

davebrownspoint said on February 23, 2010 at 1:23 PM

I thought it was funny the most prominent vehicle on the picture in the ad, is a Range Rover speeding towards their destination on the eastside. We're spending $Bs for the benefit of "who"? I guess when gas goes back to $5 a gallon only Range Rovers will be on the road. That will take care of the congestion problem naturally. Disclaimer: I drive on 520 may once every couple years.

keithm2204 said on February 23, 2010 at 1:24 PM

This is great! Something more that the EAST side of the state can do for the WEST side.

cyrixlord said on February 23, 2010 at 1:46 PM

The current light rail is already $100,000 a yard and tax payers subsidize every person's fare that rides it $120.00. I don't see how people think lightrail is a good idea in the first place, but wanting to bring that steaming pile across a bridge so that the 40 people who would use it can get to work appears to me to be an even sillier idea. Just look at who gets on the train we do have after ballgames. That's right, they all take the bus or their own cars.

tacwilster said on February 23, 2010 at 2:36 PM

lets spend more tax dollars on a consultant, SMART!

nwpow said on February 23, 2010 at 2:59 PM

Yeah, agree with you on the public good issue. I wish more people looked that way... sure, there are a million stakeholders, but you can't make everyone happy. It needs to get done, and thats why we have government- we have them make the decisions so we don't have to. Unfortunately, its bogged down far too much now. Everyone knows that micro-managing usually doesn't work.

sailsman said on February 23, 2010 at 3:26 PM

I don't think this has been studied near enough. If Mercer St. takes 7 studies, to get nothing done, a bridge (we're taking floating here) should take at least twice that many. There seems to be many more taxpayer dollars (we're talking millions here) that could be spent before anything is done. It's time to stop the non essentials like construction and stuff, and authorize some more studies. Seattlites have a reputation to maintain here. Lots of talk, lots of studies, no action. Actually we do have some things. Sports stadiums instead of an end to end Monorail, and a train that now goes within a 1/4 mile of the airport.

beren said on February 23, 2010 at 4:41 PM

I say we turn these arguments around... Build the bridge as it has been agreed upon, and then if the residents of Seattle want a light-rail bridge so bad, then let them WRITE A CHECK! Microsoft employs 5000 people that live in Seattle. That means they are paying salary of 5000 people that pay rent in Seattle, spend money, pay taxes, etc. Quit whining already! Microsoft is the biggest reason this region is in such good shape in this horrible economy. Enough already! When Microsoft and the President of the UW says your plan is dumb, it's time to shut up and sit down.

tomma206 said on February 23, 2010 at 4:45 PM

Just add another lane for rail and call it a day! Why talk about it.To the other side of the state,quit whining.

sensibleguy said on February 23, 2010 at 5:57 PM

You want Microsoft to build it? Aren't there enough crashes a day for you now?

factoid said on February 23, 2010 at 7:08 PM

"sensibleguy" Good one. I was raised on MAC and will never buy anything but MAC.

sumner_son said on February 23, 2010 at 8:12 PM

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And 115,000 vehicles per day outweigh the needs of a few people living in Medina who might have their views obstructed. In a perfect world, people would live close by their jobs, and take the bus or light rail to work. This, however, is not a perfect world. Especially when the current market value of a house far exceeds the pay of most local folks. So driving in a car is the only answer for the time-being. Limiting the number of lanes, HOPING that people will ride the bus or light rail is not practical, nor is it feasible. And now the Seattle Mayor is wasting MORE money by hiring an outside consultant from California to study the issue more, and waste more time as well.

carlconstantine said on February 23, 2010 at 9:24 PM

Since Boeing started pulling out, local officials will do most anything to keep Microsoft from doing the same thing. In Washington, they tax your freaking eyeballs out and expect you to keep your headquarters here when other states have far better options.

2cents said on February 24, 2010 at 11:06 AM

I can't stand McGinn, however, it's ridiculous not to include light rail provisions, and it's ridiculous Microsoft is campaigning to spend our tax $$ for their employees when they are arguably the richest company in the world and this region has been a good host to them for decades.

a6chris said on February 24, 2010 at 11:21 AM

yep - what a mess.

alwayssomething said on February 24, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Ship of fools, O' ye of Seattle. This is just another link in a long line of studies, testimony to the fact that nothing will be done. there is no one accountable. there never will be. Excuse me, I have to go write my tax check.

jeanne520golf said on February 24, 2010 at 1:49 PM

My father was a highway contractor that did many miles of I-5 and 90. He felt better planning should have gone into building our freeways for future population growth and expansion down the road. Many native Washingtonians fought having a freeway cutting through their Island and going across our lakes and taking us across our mountans. When the word got out about our realestate market our population started to explode with transplants and our freeway system became obsolete over-night! We have an opportunity to be at the right place at the right time that will open-up bottle-necks and be gentler on our environment. I say a little bit of inconvenience far outways all the lives lost because of an obsolete bridge that leads to one of the most dangerous connections getting onto I-5 and getting to Seattle. This also would be a perfect time to tie it all into building a new football stadium. Why miss this window of opportunity that will only cost everyone more money down the road?