Everyone agrees that the Evergreen Point Bridge needs to be replaced. It needs to be replaced with a smart regional solution that moves...
Everyone agrees that the Evergreen Point Bridge needs to be replaced. It needs to be replaced with a smart regional solution that moves both people and goods effectively and safely through the entire Highway 520 corridor. This corridor is critical to our state’s economy, with 160,000 people commuting across the bridge on a daily basis.
The bridge is over a mile long and is 42 years old. Its seismic vulnerability is well-documented, and the lack of shoulders for disabled or emergency vehicles causes congestion on a daily basis. Everyone agrees: It needs to be replaced and it needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
The University of Washington, the Seattle City Council and many local community groups throughout the city have spent considerable time developing guiding principles for policymakers to use as they contemplate what a new 520 bridge will look like.
While much has been written about different approaches and points of view among various groups regarding features and alignment of a new 520 bridge, what has not been emphasized is how much agreement exists on what we all see for the future of Highway 520.
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First, all of us want a project that replaces an aging, unsafe bridge with a new bridge that moves people and freight, reduces congestion, respects environmental goals and plans for future growth.
Second, we all want a solution that improves transit reliability and connectivity. Unless we adopt a solution that decreases our dependence on single-occupancy vehicles, any added capacity will be only a temporary improvement to the gridlock that too many drivers experience today.
Third, we all want a project that can be built within the funding available from the sources identified by the Regional Transportation Investment District.
Finally, all of us prefer a project that will fairly and fully mitigate local impacts, whether in our residential neighborhoods, business districts, the Arboretum or on campus. These areas of agreement are a good starting point for moving forward.
During the 2007 legislative session, Gov. Christine Gregoire and legislative transportation leaders acknowledged these shared concerns, passing and signing ESSB 6099. The bill establishes a mediation process by which the city of Seattle, community groups, the University of Washington, the Arboretum, and the transit and transportation agencies will work together to find areas of agreement that will lead to an approved replacement project.
Regardless of the option chosen in this process, all of us will be better off when a new bridge is constructed. And, of course, all of us will be impacted during and after the construction process.
Each of the options currently under consideration — the base six lane, the Pacific Interchange and the second Montlake Bridge — affects one or more communities disproportionately. That is why it is critical to use the mediation process to study each option carefully and ensure that reasonable mitigation of the impacts of each option is included as a component of the total costs.
A transportation solution that better serves the state and the region — that moves people and goods, gets people out of their cars and into mass transit and can be built within our budget — serves everyone’s interests.
Right now, what that consensus, single-best solution is has yet to be determined. But if we all work together and recognize how much agreement already exists, we can arrive at the optimal choice. Let’s get it done.
Mark A. Emmert is president of the University of Washington.