The new 520 bridge opened for westbound traffic on Monday. The bridge is decades in the making. As the Seattle Times describes in a recent article, the bridge was “brokered amid contentious politics, its execution was slowed by problems during construction, and taxpayers ended up paying a higher-than-expected price.”
The Times goes on to point out problems including struggles with the tolling scheme involving the billing system (2011), cracks in the bridge’s pontoons due to mistakes by the state’s engineers (2012), and troubling budget issues that culminated in then-Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson asking lawmakers for more money (2014). But, there are a couple of key points related to the 520 bridge project that the Times misses.
First, the new 520 bridge has the same number of general purpose lanes as the old bridge. The only additions are a carpool/bus lane and bike lane. That’s what taxpayers got for the billions they spent on the new bridge.
Why would officials not expand the bridge knowing the heavy traffic problems experienced by commuters on the old bridge? Because that is what Seattle democrats demanded. Presumably, less lanes forces drivers on to public transportation.
Second, it’s due to foot-dragging by Seattle politicians that the actual roadway is not finished yet. The new construction will not connect to I-5 for a couple more years.
The Times’ story mentions that there is still work to be done. But, it does not mention who is at fault for the slow down. Of course, the answer (as could be expected) is Seattle democrats who have dragged their feet on the connection.
So, in the coming years, as congestion will undoubtedly increase across the 520 bridge, commuters will know who to thank for the prolonged travel times.
Notably, the bridge will open for eastbound traffic on April 25th.