Trail Alert 10/12-13: State will replace bumpy 520 Bridge Trail covers

Before and after photos taken from ground level. The before image has a clearly steeper bump.

Base photos from WSDOT.

It’s happening! WSDOT is going to replace all those abruptly bumpy expansion gap covers on the 520 floating bridge trail this weekend.

Of course, replacing the covers means crews need to close the trail for the weekend starting 11 p.m. tonight (Friday) and continuing until 5 a.m. Monday. But the trail was going to need to be closed anyway due to work in Montlake, so combining the work this weekend prevents a closure later.

As we reported back in 2016 before the bridge trail fully opened and again in 2017, WSDOT installed expansion gap covers with a steep enough rise that biking over them feels something like hitting a pothole. And there are a lot of them.

Because the bridge is floating on Lake Washington, it is built to rise and fall with the level of the lake. That means the bridge needs a lot of gaps in the bridge surface, which are then covered for obvious reasons.

But hitting what feels like a pothole every few seconds while biking across the world’s longest floating bridge is a bit of a bummer. Luckily, I have not heard of anyone crashing and being injured due to the bumps, which I was worried would happen.

Nearly a year ago, WSDOT started testing out a fix to one of the covers, and the response was 95% positive. So now they are fixing the rest of the covers this weekend and it should be a smoother ride come Monday.

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8 Responses to Trail Alert 10/12-13: State will replace bumpy 520 Bridge Trail covers

  1. Brad Niemeyer says:

    WOW. I commented early on that the expansion joint covers were lousy for road bike, but I really di not think they would fix them. I wonder how many people gave WSDOT feedback?

  2. kDavid says:

    👍👍 way UP!

  3. Andy Sapuntzakis says:

    It was my understanding that the 520 joint covers were unusually stout (compared to I-90) because the wider trail supports maintenance trucks. I don’t think the road side has covers – so they were added because of ADA / bike concerns with uncovered joints?
    I’m happy that WSDOT responded to concerns.

  4. Tristram says:

    I may be wrong but I don’t think they are replacing “all” the expansion joints, just the narrow ones. The demonstration replacement joint that’s been there for a few months is great in one direction (heading west) but still a substantial bump in the other direction. In any event, it’s gotta be an improvement and I look forward to trying it out.

  5. AP says:

    For reference, here’s the ADA guidelines: https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards/chapter-3-floor-and-ground-surfaces#303

    A lot of us gave feedback, early on and consistently. I got new rims last year (thanks, Fairview Ave!) and they have a half dozen dents in them. It’s almost impossible to properly bunny hop each and every expansion joint.

    Yes, they’re only replacing the narrow ones. But there are only two (?) wide ones. And the new narrow ones aren’t perfect, but they’re a damned sight better than the old narrow ones. They’re so bad that I ended up counting the lights so I could predict the joints on my dark night winter commutes without having to have 30 feet’s visibility on the roadway. (8 lights per joint once you hit the deck, by the way.)

    • Jeffrey Fisher says:

      As I recall (sad that its a bit vague given I rode it friday…) The bigger ones are also near the top of the bridge rises, so where one won’t usually be going as fast (particularly the western one, on the eastern you’ve already been going down for a while).

  6. Daniel Resnik says:

    I just rode the bridge today and wow what a difference! It is so much better now than before. Yes they are still bumps but now I don’t need to slow down for them at 18mph like I did before they fixed them. They did only repair the narrow bumps and not the wide bumps, but that is ok with me.

  7. Jeffrey Fisher says:

    I rode it today as well, and the old ones last Friday. And, yea. Wow. Major improvement. The new plates are unremarkable bumps on skinny 90psi road bike tires.

    It would be nice to improve a couple of the wide ones on the west approach (where the bridge is elevated but nearly level), but its tolerable as is.

    I also peeked over the wall at the highway joints. The expansion gaps there look to be a bit over 1 inch wide and deep which would surely be a hazard to pedestrians.

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