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Bike route bridge in Montlake will close until early 2016


If you bike through Montlake via the Lake Washington Loop route, then you have a rough detour ahead of you for the next six months.

Starting “as soon as Monday,” the 24th Ave E bridge (otherwise known as the only bridge in Montlake that’s NOT constantly clogged with cars) will be closed until the early months of 2016.

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And despite this being a major regional bike route, everyone walking and biking will share the same ten-foot sidewalk on the east side of Montlake Boulevard. That’s skinnier than modern standards for a two-way shared-use path. The path will also cross SR-520 ramps, so you’ll need to be especially careful.

For bike routes near the Montlake Bridge, it’s one step forward, one step back.

The state just funded completion of the 520 bridge project in Seattle, which means its time to make sure the completed project fully embraces biking and walking connections. That includes an improved bike/walk ship canal crossing and protected bike lanes on Montlake Boulevard connecting into the Montlake business district (and beyond).

Details from WSDOT:

As soon as Monday, Aug. 31, crews for the SR 520 West Approach Bridge North Project (WABN) plan to close the 24th Avenue East bridge over SR 520 for up to six months. This necessary closure will allow crews to extend the overpass to the north and make room for a new off-ramp to East Lake Washington Boulevard at 24th Avenue East. This new off-ramp will replace the existing westbound off-ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard in the Arboretum, scheduled to be removed in 2016. Please note construction activities are weather-dependent and subject to change.

During the approximately six-month closure, all bicycles and pedestrians will be detoured to the Montlake Boulevard sidewalk via East North Street. Over the past several months, crews have upgraded sections of sidewalks along the east side of Montlake Boulevard to ADA standards and widened the sidewalks to 10 feet…

For more information about future phases of work in the Montlake area visit our website. To stay informed during WABN construction, you can also:

  • Call the 24-hour construction hotline (206-708-4657) with pressing questions or concerns.
  • Email WABN staff with your questions about the project or construction activities.
  • Join us for our monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Graham Visitors Center.
  • Visit the SR 520 Orange Page for the most up-to-date information on closures and construction impacts.
  • Visit the WABN project website to find general information about the project.
  • Follow us on Twitter @wsdot_520 to get key news and updates about the SR 520 program.

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20 responses to “Bike route bridge in Montlake will close until early 2016”

  1. Richard

    Worse, over the past month or so those sidewalks over the bridge crossing on the east side have been on-and-off closed (more closed than open, it often seems).

    Do we know if wsdot/sdot/whoever is done with that? I know there’s still construction all over on both sides, so it seems likely more of that is coming… If they detour us to what is already a crappy route, then close that route regularly, options get REALLY limited.

    1. Rob Norheim

      Umm, yes, they made a point of not closing the bridge until the alternate route on the sidewalks was completed.

      1. Richard

        Right -but isn’t that entire Montlake 520 overpass being converted to a lid? I’m just a little dubious that the sidewalks won’t be closed again (and again and again) over the course of that work…

    2. Rob Norheim

      The proposed lid is not part of this phase of the 520 work (the ‘WBAN’ project), it’s part of the *next* phase of the 520 work, i.e., the eastbound bridge from I-5 to the floating bridge and the westbound bridge from Montlake to I-5. That only just got funded by the legislature last month, and won’t start construction especially soon, certainly not in the 6 months the 24th Ave E bridge will be closed. But yes, when they do start on that project in a few years, no doubt that a lot of the new sidewalks and ramps they are constructing with the WBAN project will get ripped out and there will be further detours.

  2. JAT

    Are SDOT really recommending all cyclists take the sidewalk? WOW!

    I wouldn’t dream of doing that.

    1. Josh

      What do they propose for people with electric-assist bikes that are illegal on sidewalks?


      1. Drew

        Just turn it off and it’s a regular bicycle. No Big Deal.

      2. Josh

        But still illegal on sidewalks. The law doesn’t say you can turn it off, it says it’s just plain illegal.

        Wouldn’t expect police to be overly-zealous about enforcement, but if you’re ever in a collision and have to worry about liability, you’re breaking the law just being there.

      3. Drew

        It depends on what it means to “operate” an e-bike. A common sense interpretation of operating an electric bike would mean using with the motor on. Just pedaling with the motor off, again from a common sense point of view, is just operating a bicycle. Legalese interpretations of course could be different. I’ll take my chances. See ya on the BG, Josh.

      4. jay

        @Drew, note that Josh said “liability”, common sense has little place in a court of law, “Legalese interpretations of course” are exactly what matters.
        Also, it not necessarily your liability if you hit someone (which of course you will never do) that you need to be concerned about, if someone in a car hits you, say coming out of a driveway or in a crosswalk, and they claim you “came out of nowhere” and they never saw you, having a motor on your bike won’t be to your advantage.

      5. Josh

        The law is broadly drafted, no doubt. But an e-bike is still an e-bike if it’s turned off — the legal definition is that is has the motor installed, not that the motor is in use.

        (Similarly, in many places you can be cited for being in control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated if you’re doing the responsible thing and sleeping it off before driving — the motor vehicle is still a motor vehicle when it’s turned off, and you’re still in control of it if you’re asleep in the driver’s seat with the keys in your pocket.)

        As a practical matter, I doubt most e-bike owners have much to worry about.

        As a policy matter, SDOT shouldn’t be encouraging people to break state law.

  3. kommish

    And there will be inevitable conflicts between people walking and people biking (especially because there are a bunch of bus stops serving UW along that route) which will inevitably be blamed on all cyclists everywhere and not on the silly planning. Time to switch to the University Bridge for awhile.

    1. bidab

      There are two bus stops along that route, one of which (520) has been closed due to the construction, while the other (Shelby) is a relatively low-traffic stop. The sidewalk on Montlake Blvd was recently widened to accommodate the increased traffic.

  4. AW

    Got this update via email from WSDOT about the closure:

    Note: Crews must complete some paving activities on Montlake Boulevard before they can close the 24th Avenue East overpass. A forecast of rain this weekend has delayed the paving, so closure of the overpass is not expected until next Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the earliest. We’ll send updates via email and our website once the overpass closure is confirmed. For more information about future phases of work in the Montlake area, visit our website.

  5. jay

    I wonder how wide a ten foot sidewalk really is, with the signs and utility poles and other junk that lives on sidewalks. From a quick measurement on Google maps it looks like this detour is shorter than the Ballard bridge, and the Ballard Bridge sure doesn’t have 10′ sidewalks. But then, I wouldn’t ride the Ballard bridge.

    If one is just out for a recreational ride, or is coming from/going to the west (but not as far west as the University bridge which may otherwise be a better option) the Bill Dawson trail from the Montlake playfield is kind of fun, (well in the daylight and/or if one is a large male or in a group, maybe not so much fun for a solo female at night), but it might be a bit out of the way for many commuters. It may also be a bit narrow for the high speed commuters, but recreationally it is not so bad, at least not on low traffic weekends.

    1. Female Montlake Commuter

      The trail isn’t bad, even at night, I ride there daily all winter, never seen anyone but joggers, walking commuters, and other cyclists.

    2. bidab

      The width is actually pretty good, except when they put up their construction signs which blocks more than half the sidewalk. But compared to the old route, when you factor in the poor road quality on Shelby and Hamlin and the hassle of crossing Lake Washington Blvd on 24th Ave, it comes out to be about the same amount of time and stress.

  6. BGT/Montlake Commuter

    As voiced above, my biggest concern is the number of intersections where harried and distracted drivers are trying to turn right (northbound) as quickly as possible to get into the stream of traffic. They don’t look very hard for pedestrians or cyclists before darting into traffic. Now we’re going to up the number of north and south-bound cyclists going through that route? That’s a recipe for very poor car/cyclist interactions. I can almost guarantee we’re going to see a serious accident or fatality in the coming six months.

  7. Meredith

    Two comments, first, there are plenty of cyclists already on the sidewalks along Montlake Blvd (I’m one of them, since I work right there), more could be trouble, but only if people don’t just slow down for a block or two and watch out for pedestrians. It would also help if the city trimmed back some of the trees right around the bridge so they don’t create blind corners.

    Second, there is another potential work around (at least for right now) and I’m not sure why they aren’t sending folks there. It will require people to bike around a bit, but there is a bike path that runs under and alongside the 520 bridge right at Montlake (west side of Montlake). It won’t keep you off the sidewalk, but it will prevent you from having to cross the freeway on/off ramps, which are a nightmare and where folks have absolutely been hit by inattentive drivers.

  8. Ray

    Rode the detour north today and it’s fine. Took the sidewalk across the bridge, and traffic was waiting patiently for cyclists at the crosswalk on the other side (not sure if there’s a no-turn-on-red sign or not – there should be). After that, you can choose to ride in the bus lane going north (I did) or take the sidewalk. Going south, you’d be stuck with the sidewalk unless you ride on the west side of Montlake, which wouldn’t be a lot of fun.

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