A new Portage Bay bridge is coming as part of the 520 replacement project. The bridges that we build today will shape how people get around the region and our city for the next 60-75 years. When we built the I-90 bridge, we created brand new links across the lake and enabled people to get from one side to the other on foot or bike. The success of that link is partly because we made the choice to maximize the benefit of that investment by building bike and pedestrian tunnels that made getting to downtown and the central Seattle neighborhoods easy and direct. Today, we are in the process of deciding whether or not we want to maximize the investment being made in the new link across the lake on the 520 bridge by connecting it with the rest of Seattle with a multi-use trail on the new Portage Bay bridge.
Recently, we asked for your support in asking the city to ask WSDOT to include the multi-use trail as part of the Portage Bay Replacement. We quickly collected 346 signatures from regular people all across the city, including long time residents of Montlake who will be neighbors to the new bridge and are interested in what is best for their community and for Seattle. Since then, the Seattle Design Commission has come out in support of the multi-use trail and the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is expected to follow suit. While we have had broad support, we have also seen concerns from some members of the community who are concerned about the additional width of the bridge that the multi-use trail would cause.
A multi-use path is in total 14 feet wide. We know that we can get 4 feet by reducing the size of the planted media, which means what we need to make this trail a reality is 10 feet of additional space. That is less than your arm span added to both sides. It may also be possible to reduce the additional feet by narrowing one of the break down shoulder lanes. This marginal addition that stands to give over a half a century of benefit to the people of Seattle and the residents of Montlake. In the image above, we have a the outlines of the bridge without and with the multi-use trail. It is worth the extra effort to build this bridge right, just like we did with the I-90 bridge.
We understand that people are concerned about the impacts that the bridge will have, but including a multi-use path will not dramatically change the effect that the freeway traffic part of the bridge will have on the neighborhood. The 10 feet needed is simply dwarfed by the rest of the project and does not significantly change the negative impacts of any part of the Portage Bay Bridge replacement.
What it does change is the benefit that the bridge provides to the community and the surrounding neighborhoods, which is why so many people have joined us in calling for this vital link to get built. Central Seattle Greenways believes that this link on the Portage Bay bridge is essential to creating a family-friendly biking and pedestrian network. So do 346 residents who have signed our letter to WSDOT and City Council. It has the potential to create new, efficient connections between neighborhoods that are today cumbersome or awkward. This new link will be nearly half the length required to travel from the Delmar lid to the Montlake Bridge by other solutions, will dramatically reduce the number of intersection crossings, will reduce unsafe interactions between cars and bikes on narrow winding roadways, and will create a clear and enjoyable link between all of the neighborhoods involved and the region. This is a winning addition and worth the 10 extra feet.
You will hear more from us on this important issue soon.