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A look at the planned 520 bike trail (and why it should extend to N Capitol Hill) – UPDATED


Plans to replace the 520 Bridge are crawling along, and the state recently released concept images of the proposed floating bridge. Images show plans for the proposed walking and biking trail, which comes complete with “belvedere” resting and lookout points (as pictured above).

It still amazes me the state actually built a mega project like the 1963 floating bridge without any space for people to even walk across, let alone bike. How could that happen?

Anyway, history aside, plans for the somewhat sorta partially funded $4.65 billion mega project (it’s about $2.22 billion underfunded) do include a space for walking and biking across Lake Washington from Montlake to Medina.

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However, the plans so far do not include extending the trail through to North Capitol Hill, where it could connect with popular bike routes to the University Bridge, Broadway, Interlaken Park and downtown. One of the poster boards for a late March open house described the section of 520 between Montlake and I-5 as a “parkway,” but the map does not include a walking and biking path. Funding for this section is still up in the air, though the legislature has funded environmental studies.

Building this connection would be a tremendous opportunity to not only actualize the new Lake Washington trail, but also to connect Montlake, Eastlake and North Capitol Hill. The hills from Montlake to Capitol Hill (and downtown) are among the steepest in the city, which is a significant barrier to people walking and biking between the neighborhoods. For the 520 Bridge to serve as an effective bicycle commuter facility from the Eastside to downtown Seattle — our region’s largest employment center — this connection is vital.

The state is holding a public meeting April 12, and biking and walking access is on the program for discussion. Details:

We’re continuing the SCDP process in April by hosting the first of four interactive public sessions to explore design refinements that support Puget Sound mobility and livable Seattle neighborhoods.

Join us for the first public session on April 12 when we will focus on:

  • Shelby/Hamlin neighborhood and the canal reserve area
  • East Montlake Park and the planned SR 520 stormwater facility
  • Montlake shoreline under the planned SR 520
  • East Lake Washington Boulevard
  • Bicycle/pedestrian connections to regional and local activity centers

Event details:

Time: Thursday, April 12, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Short presentation at 5 and 6 p.m.

Place: Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI)
2700 24th Ave. East
Seattle, WA 98112
Located just north of SR 520 in Montlake.

Now, back to the concept images (notice how the images show tons of people walking and biking, yet only a handful of cars here or there…)

Here’s a map with the Montlake/Arboretum trail access concepts:

Zoomed-in look at the proposed Montlake design

UPDATE: One thing I failed to mention is that the Roanoke Lid will connect Federal Ave to Roanoke Park. Federal is on the short list of good neighborhood greenway options on Capitol Hill, so this is an excellent opportunity to create a family-friendly biking and walking connection between the region’s biggest road project and the state’s most densely populated neighborhood.

Also, Cascade Bicycle Club posted similar thoughts on their blog. Here are their suggestions for designing the bridge right:

If you are able to attend the April 12 meeting (or subsequent workshops), here are a few points we think WSDOT should consider, if not prioritize, moving forward:

  • Provide a multi-use trail along the Portage Bay Bridge, connecting from Montlake to Capitol Hill.
  • Create strong connections through the 10th and Delmar project area, including dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facilities along E Roanoke St connecting over I-5, improvements to the intersections of Harvard Ave E & E Roanoke St and 10th Ave E & E Roanoke St, and connections across the proposed LID at 10th and Delmar – reconnecting Federal Ave E to E Roanoke St.
  • Ensure 24th Ave E is designed to facilitate safe and efficient bicycle and pedestrian crossings and to reduce conflicts between users, particularly where the regional trail intersects with the Seattle street network. WSDOT is considering parking alternatives to serve East Montlake Park, one of which proposes a parking lot in East Montlake Park requiring an additional street and intersection at 24th Ave E. If parking is necessary, we would encourage you to advocate for parking to be placed underneath the SR 520 bridge.
  • Provide dedicated bicycle connections along Shelby/Hamlin. A bi-directional bicycle facility is being explored for E Shelby St, providing connections to Montlake and to 24th Ave E and the SR 520 trail. Let WSDOT know if this is something you would like to see, or if you would prefer bicycle facilities on both Shelby and Hamlin (which are one-way streets).
  • Create a safe and attractive Montlake Boulevard for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians. With Montlake serving a significant number of pedestrian and bicycle trips, improvements are needed along Montlake providing safe crossings and dedicated facilities.

If you plan on attending, please RSVP here so we know how many bicycle supporters to expect. If you are unable to attend the April 12 meeting, please send your comments regarding non-motorized connections across the Westside SR 520 corridor to: [email protected]

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28 responses to “A look at the planned 520 bike trail (and why it should extend to N Capitol Hill) – UPDATED”

  1. Jeremy

    Maybe they’ll even have racks of ear protection you can put on for the trip across, then deposit when you reach the other side?

    1. Todd

      Plants to remove the carbon monoxide? Wind shields? Bed and Breakfasts?

      1. Jeremy

        Of course not, why risk putting a project $2,200,000,000 unfunded even farther into the red? I mean, where is the rage from the purportedly tax-adverse Washington public to this grim boondoggle? Trimming a verge on the Burke-Gilman? Outrage and gnashing of teeth! Billions on floating a needlessly wider open air sewer across a lake? Nary a peep.

    2. Mike Lindblom

      Are those earplugs biodegradable?

  2. Larry

    The currently funded portion of the bridge transistions on the water, north of Madison Park. Wouldn’t this seem to indicate that the Ped./Bike trail is going to be a glorious dead end?????

    1. It’s more than just that — the new bridge will be a lot higher than the old one, and wider, too! I’m sure there’s some kind of plan… but if they don’t connect that path to land when this thing opens I’ll go to Olympia and chain myself to something.

  3. Gary

    From what I heard about the ’63 bridge build was that people in Clyde Hill etc didn’t want homeless bums walking across the bridge to their exclusive neighborhood. If you look at home prices and who lives there it sort makes sense. They used to have an exclusive neighborhood and then it became much easier for people to get to, including themselves. Of course homeless people can ride the bus, so I have no idea where their common sense was.

    Also in ’63 people rode bikes but in the USA, not to commute. It was the age of “see the USA in your Chevrolet!”, not “on your Schwinn.” And 3 speed internal hubs were like cool, anything more was for racers.

    But that choice sure bollixed up bicycle commuting for the next 50 years around here.

  4. Gary

    As for the image with “no cars” perhaps they are forecasting much higher tolls and gasoline prices?

    On the connection to N. Capital Hill, what we need is a flyover bridge to get us up over all that traffic, and start us on the way up Capital Hill. If we could get to the bike path on the East side of Montlake Playground, then over to E. Calhoun, and then to 19th Ave E and connect to E. Interlocken, that would get us out of the traffic and a good way up that hill.

    1. The plans I’ve seen for the Montlake area seem to indicate the bike path continuing under the bridge, connecting to that trail through Montlake Playfield, and ending there. They’re just preliminary at this point, and the Montlake parts aren’t funded (some commenter on STB said they probably will be soon).

  5. Joe

    The other dead end, or rather missing link, is on the Eastside. Once you cross the bridge and get to Bellevue Way/Lk. Wash Blvd, you ride on Northrup Way that has no shoulders, no sidewalks, no street lights and a hill with many driveways. City of Bellevue is tasked with upgrading this road, not WSDOT. And the City’s response is to build a wider road with a bike lane. I can just see riding westbound downhill at a good 30 mph clip and getting t-boned from someone entering/leaving a driveway because they can’t see the bikes riding on the side. At NE 24th, riders leave the road and enter the 520 trail which goes straight to Redmond and links to the Sammamish Trail.

    1. pqbuffington

      yah, i hate accessing the 520 trail (this even from downtown Bellevue) as Northup is totally lame (try the sidewalk for that stretch under 405) or even the other way via 108th NE (i highly recommend for all north/south Bellevue travel) and then NE 12th and then north on 116 NE to the trail head…lame.

  6. pqbuffington

    Hmmm…it seems the trail could connect to the U-Bridge rout(s) via Roanoke-Montlake-Lynn-Boyler, routing around the very northern end of Cap Hill, either to Eastlake and/or to Franklin; Eastlake for the SLU and Downtown destinations, of course, and Franklin, via the Colonnade path to Lakeview, for Cap Hill / First Hill access.

    These would add some distance, but avoid most of the elevation problems.

  7. However this bridge finally pans out, would assume/hope a bike lane is included. Having the current bridge without is a serious missing link.

  8. […] More at Seattlebikeblog, on connecting Roanoke to Montlake via the Portage Bay […]

  9. Jay

    I took Federal Ave once while riding from Montlake to Cap Hill. The route looked good on the map – a convenient bypass for Broadway/10th, which is not very pleasant to bike on. Unfortunately the paving was terrible , even by Seattle standards.. Lots of massive potholes and cracks in the pavement.
    I don’t think this would be a good greenway route unless it was repaved – and as far as I know, SDOT barely has the money to repave a few arterials a year, so the odds for a residential street being repaved seem minimal…

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Agreed. Some kind of paving solution is definitely needed. That would be considered in the scale of the project if it were to be turned into a greenway. However, there are very few busy street crossings (which are relatively expensive), so on a per-mile basis it might not be that bad (?)

      1. pqbuffington

        Yah, I fear the any greenway on Federal might meet with extreme NIMBY-ism…that is probably the most exclusive street on Cap-Hill…I have always assumed the crappy road surface was that way because they, the Federalists (ha!), like it that way, i.e. it keeps unwanted traffic away.

        However, a greenway or bike route up Federal would be fine. I just think the effort should be to Eastlake (for SLU and Downtown access, as well Queen Anne) and Lakeview; most especially Lakeview as it accesses Melrose (via the Bellevue Place Park) to the Pike/Pine corridor and First Hill or even “upper” Down Town with very little elevation gain/loss once you are at the Lakeview contour.

  10. Jack

    Pretty off topic, but I couldn’t help but notice the pedestrian in the drawing wearing thongs (flip flops). Seems like you’d wear those on a hot summer day, but the snow on the (low elevation) cascades would indicate a different season. Also maybe not the best walking wear for that long of a jaunt. Someone better track down that virtual dude.

    1. Gary

      It’s obviously a tourist because he’s not wearing socks with those thongs.

  11. Brad Hawkins

    The shallowest and quickest way for a cyclist to get from the 520 to Capitol Hill would be for the bike path to extend on the 520 right of way through Portage Bay and up to Roanoke/1oth Ave. As it stands now, you get dumped off at Montlake Park and then ride the Interlakken switchbacks or take the steepest streets in town to get up to Capitol Hill.
    The trek to downtown is equally ridiculous. If you want to go downtown, It looks as though you have to get off, cross Montlake, get on the Burke through the Pacific Ave silliness, then backtrack up onto the University Bridge, down and unimproved Eastlake and there you go. Extending the bike path to 10th would allow a cyclist to get on Lakeview which connects to Melrose and then downtown.
    Extending the bike path to 10th would solve all of this.

    1. Gary

      You know I think you are right about extending the path up to Roanoke /10th to go up to Capital Hill. It would be noisy route being still next to the freeway, and I think if I was headed to South Lake Union I’d prefer a route along the water on the South side of the cut, but I don’t know where it would go to avoid the traffic.

      But another 1/2 mile or so of bike path would make a world of difference.

  12. […] addition of a biking and walking trail to the proposed 520 bridge is not the only part of the state’s plan that will affect people […]

  13. […] already looked at the state’s concepts for a walking and biking trail across Lake Washington via a reconstructed 520 floating bridge. But the reconstructed bridge will also come with redesigns […]

  14. […] the 520 planners from Central Seattle Greenways, a biking and walking path across Portage Bay is an essential part of the 520 Bridge replacement project. This multi-billion-dollar project already includes such a path across Lake Washington, but it […]

  15. […] rewind for those who have not been following. The state is piecing together a complete replacement of the 520 Bridge from Medina to I-5. The […]

  16. […] months ago this victory was a mere flickering hope. Last July, spurred by excellent reporting from Seattle Bike Blog, neighbors flying the flags of Central Seattle Greenways, Montlake […]

  17. bikemike

    Has there been any word on what happens on the east side of the bridge? will the the trail connect with the existing 520 bike trail on the east side of 405 or will it just halt once you get into Medina?

  18. […] months ago this victory was a mere flickering hope. Last July, spurred by excellent reporting from Seattle Bike Blog, neighbors flying the flags of Central Seattle Greenways, […]

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