Redesigned Northgate bike/walk bridge construction should start middle of this year

Crossing I-5 in Northgate is terrible today. The freeway divides the neighborhood, and the few places where crossing on foot or bike is possible are either far apart or very stressful. So as the region prepares to open a light rail station and Northgate Mall prepares for significant redevelopment, including a lot of new housing, we need to help people get across the freeway.

From its inception in 2011, the Northgate bike/walk bridge was focused on dramatically expanding access to the light rail station. Today, there is no crossing option for the 18 blocks between NE 92nd Street and NE Northgate Way, and the Northgate Way underpass is stressful and does not have bike lanes. North Seattle College and the nearby neighborhood would be within an easy walk of the station if there were a bridge, and the number of homes and destinations within an easy bike ride would be dramatically expanded.

It has been something of a half-decade roller coaster ride for the Northgate bike/walk bridge. The initial design, which included a striking and potentially iconic design, was likely only going to happen if the city could win a Federal TIGER grant. But SDOT failed twice — in 2014 on its own and 2015 as part of a Pronto bike share expansion — to win the grant. So SDOT, Sound Transit and Washington State partnered to fund a lower-cost version of the bridge instead. 

But despite the delays due to the 2017–18 bridge redesign, the project appears on track to open before light rail service begins. SDOT announced Tuesday that the project has finished environmental review and final design, and they are preparing to send it out for construction bids. If all goes according to schedule, construction should begin mid-year. Northgate Station is set to open in 2021.

Getting the bridge to this stage took an enormous amount of advocacy work from neighbors, transit and biking supporters, and organizations like Cascade Bicycle Club. It also required a local, regional and statewide partnership, which was very cool to watch. Even facing big challenges like missed grants and a need to redesign, folks kept their eyes on the goal of getting this thing ready before light rail. It’s cool to see what can happen when people work together from the grassroots all the way up to Olympia.

Here’s how the bridge will connect to other planned improvements in the area, from this PDF:

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7 Responses to Redesigned Northgate bike/walk bridge construction should start middle of this year

  1. Skylar says:

    This is great to hear, and will be a nice addition to the surprisingly-effective improvements that SDOT has done to College Way.

  2. Bridge says:

    Does anyone know? It is unclear to me:

    Does the east side of the bridge connect directly with the light rail station? Or do bridge users have to descend from the bridge to 1st Ave, then cross 1st Ave at street level, then ascend up into the light rail station?

    • RossB says:

      OK, I’ll admit, I’m still confused as to the details of this whole thing. It is hard to consider this in isolation. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find the documents for the final design of the Northgate Station. (Sound Transit redid their website). No matter what, though, the bridge will connect to the station. At the same time, you can avoid the station and still use the bridge. There may be better pictures, but page 13 of this document is pretty good: https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/BridgeStairsProgram/NorthgatePedBridge_2017_0803_Final.pdf. From a biking perspective, if you are just trying to get from one side of the freeway to the other, you will bike down to 100th, then loop around and cross. That is an option for pedestrians as well, but that is a lot of back and forth. Pedestrians are probably better off using the station escalators or stairs, especially if they are coming from the north.

      Unfortunately, I can’t tell exactly how those will work and how they will tie in to the bridge. I guess it doesn’t matter. It is being built (as we speak). Other aspects — like how this will tie in with the neighborhood — are progressing, and more dynamic.

  3. Brian Bothomley says:

    Bridge- from the PDF:
    “The new bridge will
    span roughly 1,900 feet over I-5, landing
    at North Seattle College on the west
    side and at 1st Ave NE and NE 100th St,
    with a connection to the Northgate light
    rail station’s mezzanine level.”

    So the part that states: “with a connection to the Northgate light
    rail station’s mezzanine level.” sounds to me like it should go into the station, but we will find out soon.

  4. Susan Ward says:

    The ped/bike bridge will be great, and look forward to this connection west/east.

    The main north-south bike/walk way to light rail on 1st NE will be very loud, right alongside I5 and almost underneath light rail, and probably unpleasant. Bikers will pass through it quickly, but pedestrians will have to deal with it longer.

    A second parallel walkway could be on 3rd NE, and it could connect from NE 95th, if a ramp or stairway was placed on the bluff there.

    • asdf2 says:

      1st makes sense as a bike route, but as a pedestrian, I would think cutting through the mall building itself to be much more pleasant.

      As a pedestrian, the only reason I could see myself using 1st is if I’m in enough of hurry to be running it, rather than walking.

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