So we’ve already established that the Northgate bike/walk bridge is a good idea from a neighborhood connectivity perspective. But another important benefit of the bridge is the chance to create a truly spectacular and maybe even iconic piece of infrastructure for Northgate.
In a neighborhood known best for its mall, one of the first post-war indoor malls built in the United States, increasing density and changing shopping trends set the stage for a future where Northgate Mall and the light rail station are more of a neighborhood center than merely a driving destination for people who live somewhere else.
The mall was built next to a freeway that cuts the neighborhood in half, and is surrounded by big surface parking lots. Even after recent remodeling projects, much of the mall area reflects 1950s thinking that does not fit in today’s Seattle.
Since indoor malls across the nation have been failing, Northgate could be an example of how a mall can stay vibrant and relevant in the 21st Century. Rather than seas of surface parking lots, people want culture and street life. And the bike/walk bridge could be one eye-catching example of the effort.
The city held an open house recently to show off some design ideas for the bridge and gather feedback. The project still needs to find $15 million, and the city and Sound Transit have applied for a competitive federal TIGER grant to fill the gap. But if they do not receive the grant, they should be developing a backup plan to make sure funding is found before the July 2015 deadline set by Sound Transit. You can let them know you support finding funding for the bridge and give your other thoughts by emailing art.brochet@Seattle.gov.
Below are some highlights from the city’s presentation on the bridge concepts.
Today, biking or walking from the upcoming Northgate Station site to College Way requires a 1.2-mile route.
And along those 1.2 miles, people have to traverse some very unfriendly and outdated roads, bridges and underpasses. These might as well have come straight from Smart Growth America’s Dangerous By Design report:
How the bridge reconnects the neighborhood
No matter which alignment option is chosen, the bike/walk bridge would turn that miserable 1.2 miles into 0.25 miles, and would create new safe and comfortable bike route options.
Turning an engineering challenge into a neighborhood icon
Because I-5 is somewhat elevated in this area and freeway standards require a lot of clearance, the bridge will require 45 feet of elevation gain from 1st Ave NE in front of the light rail station. It needs both access directly to the elevated station platform and access to the street level. On one hand, these are significant engineering challenges. But on the other hand, they are opportunities to create a stunning structure.
Indeed, the designers are going for stunning. Planners presented three span designs at the open house. Here is the awesome bike/walk bridge design porn they put together:
The city will pick their preferred design by this fall. If funding is found, construction could begin in 2016 and the bridge could be completed by the end of 2018, several years before the station begins operation in 2021. Here’s the timeline: