27 July 2012
Construction can continue on the SR 520 floating bridge as a US federal judge has upheld the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) environmental analysis of the project.
The judge has dismissed the lawsuit that sought to overturn WSDOT’s environmental analysis of the new bridge on State Route 520.
US District Court judge Ricardo Martinez issued the ruling thie week, rejecting an effort by a group to force further analysis of alternative designs for improvements to the SR 520 corridor from Seattle to Medina.
“Our analysis was thorough and exhaustive, and we hope that the ruling by Judge Martinez puts an end to the debate about mobility improvements to this vital corridor,” said state transportation secretary Paula Hammond. With the court’s decision, WSDOT can continue with construction of SR 520 improvements as planned and funded.
The lawsuit targeted WSDOT’s final environmental impact statement for the ‘SR 520, I-5 to Medina: Bridge Replacement and HOV Project’ and the Federal Highway Administration’s record of decision, concluding the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act. Opponents criticised WSDOT for not further considering a four-lane bridge design.
The SR 520 program replaces the aging and vulnerable four-lane floating bridge with a six-lane corridor that includes a transit/HOV lane and two general-purpose lanes in each direction. Planning and environmental analysis began in 1997 to improve safety and mobility in the SR 520 corridor from Seattle to Redmond and was completed in 2011.
Judge Martinez’s ruling noted that WSDOT’s goal for the project was not unreasonably narrow, fits within state and legislative goals for improving traffic flow across Lake Washington on all routes, and is consistent with the regional priority of improving the region’s HOV system.
Construction of components for a replacement floating bridge on Lake Washington is under way in Kenmore, Tacoma and Aberdeen. The first 12 of 77 pontoons needed for a replacement floating bridge are complete in Tacoma and Aberdeen, and are expected on Lake Washington this summer.