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SR 520 project receives federal approval


August 4, 2011

SEATTLE – After 14 years of design and analysis, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) received federal approval for its plans to improve State Route 520 – including replacing the aging and vulnerable floating bridge – with a safer and more reliable six-lane bridge and highway.

Today, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed a record of decision, which finalizes the environmental process and allows WSDOT to further design the I-5 to Medina: Bridge Replacement and HOV Project and obtain construction permits. This summer, WSDOT plans to award a contract to replace the floating bridge – the most vulnerable structure in the corridor.

“Wrapping up the environmental process means we can move forward on building a six-lane floating bridge with HOV lanes,” Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said. “When complete, this long-awaited project will give Puget Sound drivers a safer, more reliable commute. The 520 bridge is an essential link in the region’s highway system and economy and we look forward to awarding a contract soon.”

The record of decision is the last of nine environmental documents prepared for the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program. In the record of decision, FHWA confirms the selection of the preferred alternative based on the analysis included in the I-5 to Medina project final environmental impact statement (EIS), published in June.

“WSDOT has conducted a thorough analysis supporting the preferred alternative for the new SR 520 corridor,” said Randy Everett, FHWA major projects oversight manager. “We are confident in our process and look forward to working with WSDOT as we move forward to implement commitments and ultimately construct the project.”

The I-5 to Medina project improves mobility by replacing the existing congested four-lane highway with a six-lane corridor with two general-purpose lanes and a transit/HOV lane in each direction. The project addresses structural vulnerabilities by building a new, safer floating bridge, west approach bridge and Portage Bay Bridge. The project also includes an urban interchange at the expanded Montlake lid with direct-access transit/HOV ramps and improved connections to local and regional bus routes.

The record of decision lists many commitments made by WSDOT and FHWA to surrounding communities before, during and after project construction. These commitments include mitigation for project effects to the environment and neighborhoods, as well as implementing traffic-calming measures in the Arboretum and developing a community construction management plan. WSDOT also plans to work with members of the public and local agencies to further refine the project design through a collaborative urban design process.

Scheduled to begin in September, the urban design process will focus on incorporating comprehensive, sustainable design methods to reconnect Seattle neighborhoods adjacent to SR 520 and improve the corridor. Members will include representatives of local neighborhood groups, design professionals, the Seattle Design Commission, and partner agencies such as the University of Washington, the city of Seattle and King County Metro.

More information about this community design process and how members of the public can get involved is available online.

Improvements to SR 520 are funded by federal and state sources, including gas taxes and tolling. WSDOT will continue working with the state Legislature to identify additional funding for the portion of the SR 520 corridor that lies west of the floating bridge.

More information about the SR 520 program is available at


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