Sound Transit light rail track design meeting set for Wednesday July 11th

Image: Montlaker

Sound Transit will meet with Montlake residents to review the operational track design and light rail noise levels on Wednesday, July 11th, 6pm at the Montlake Miller Community Center. Anyone concerned about train noise in the neighborhood and the steps Sound Transit is taking to minimize it should plan on attending.

Given that Sound Transit has agreed to significant measures for eliminating light rail disturbance to the University of Washington campus – and given that tunnel drilling last fall revealed Montlake’s soil conditions to be poorly suited to dampening ground borne noise and vibration — Sound Transit needs to design and build the best light rail track possible underneath the neighborhood, starting with the use of high-compliance fasteners to connect the steel rails to the concrete rail bed. Doing it right from the start will only happen if the agency hears that this is a priority right now. Let them know your thoughts before the concrete is poured and the rails tied down. Contact U-Link Community Outreach Supervisor Jeff Munnoch at:


520 Bridge closure this weekend — Why not open it for pedestrians?

Image: WSDOT Flickr pool

State Route 520 will close this weekend — from 11pm Friday, June 1st until early Monday morning — between Montlake and I-405. Crews will set the final 34 girders for the Evergreen Point lid and demolish a couple of Eastside overpasses, work that requires closing the entire floating bridge corridor.

When the bridge closes for construction, why not take the opportunity to open it for pedestrians and bicyclists from the westside? Imagine being able to walk or ride across Lake Washington, experiencing a space otherwise seen from inside a car or bus. When WSDOT opened the Alaskan Way Viaduct to the pedestrian public during demolition last fall, thousands of people showed up to walk the freeway lanes on a windy and wet Saturday morning. The event was a huge success.

Construction closures could be a chance to use the bridge to watch herons, count turtles or even talk at length with the 520 bald eagles. If this sounds good, take a minute to email WSDOT a request to make the bridge available to pedestrians when it has to close to cars:


Help win $10,000 to replant the Montlake Cut

Today is the last day to support this project. Vote, then spread the word! 


The ol’ timey folks in the video below have submitted a proposal to win $10,000 for native species replanting along the Montlake Cut. Help them out by voting for their project at Odwalla (click through on the lower right). You have to give them a bit of information but I’m sure grandpa won’t mind. He likes trees. He remembers when the cut wasn’t overrun with blackberries.

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UW student’s “Lily Pad” project blurs land, lake and nature in the Arboretum wetlands

All images: Todd Yinglin

As part of the mitigation plan for the expansion of 520, the State will fund the creation of five new wetland sites on Lake Washington, one of which being the WSDOT Peninsula and its ambling lagoons next to the Washington Park Arboretum. The City of Seattle has provisionally approved a plan to create five acres of wetlands along the peninsula by regrading 28,000 cubic yards of earth and replanting native species. Regrading one wetland to make yet another leads to the question: just what is a wetland anyway?

UW student Todd Yingling presents an interesting answer in a Landscape Architecture studio that addressed this issue for the WSDOT Peninsula site. His Lily Pads project uses floating platforms to grow plants and create walking paths out over the water. The floating “lily pads” take a common plant found in the area and reuses their form at the urban scale. The “natural” shoreline is consciously left alone – natural since its creation when 520 was built in the 1960s – and keeps remnants of the freeway ramps as viewpoints and reminders of the man-made history of the site.

Thanks Todd, for sharing your project!

SDOT pedestrian safety improvements coming to 24th Ave E

20120525-233821.jpgImage: Montlaker

The pedestrian safety cause along 24th Ave E is starting to produce real results. SDOT officials plan to implement a number of improvements in response to concerns raised by residents to the Seattle Public Schools Traffic Safety Committee. Of specific interest is the crossing at 24th & McGraw, with its notoriously short crossing light and hazardous conditions for school kids walking to Montlake Elementary. Some of the changes include:

– Allowing on-street parking along 24th during peak hours to help calm traffic. This also provides more parking access for local businesses — a win-win all around, except for speeding vehicles.

– Installing 20 mph School Zone signs with beacons flashing during the 30 minutes before and after school hours.

– Adding more time to the crossing signal and pushing the stop line further back from the crosswalk.

– Seattle Police enforcement of speed limits during school commute times.

Look for these changes over the next year. In the meantime, thanks to those Montlake residents working with the City and School District for showing us how civic engagement is done.

Arboretum turtles are tough – but will they survive the new 520 freeway?

20120524-231749.jpgImage: Montlaker

Joggers on Marsh Island, cyclists on the Dawson Trail and commuters on the 545 know them well: those sunbathing turtles lined up on fallen logs below the freeway, necks stretched out, watching the world go by, seemingly satisfied and so, so smug.

After the dredging and dumping of the 520-Arboretum shoreline in the 1960s, the red-eared slider turtle has emerged as the dominant reptile in the man-made world of Lake Washington. They have done well in the aquatic environment of the freeway with its many basking areas and turtle food habitat of plants, insects, amphibians and fish. Red-eared sliders are native to the American South and likely came here as pets, then released into the wild and forced to compete with our western pond turtles – of which few, if any, now remain.

Ancient as red-ears are, these turtles have evolved into fast movers. They are called sliders for their ability to evade predators by quickly sliding off rocks and logs and into water where they can hold their breath for hours. Unlike other turtle species, they can’t breathe under water, nor can they through their cloaca, however, what they lack in underwater butt breathing they make up with on-the-ground toughness. Here’s a red-ear talking trash to a heron:

20120524-211251.jpgImage: Montlaker

Soon we’ll find out just how tough these turtles are. Along with plans for the expansion of 520, WSDOT is planning to demolish the Arboretum ramps and regrade the adjacent shoreline area into new wetlands – again. The plan is to move 28,000 cubic yards of earth. That’s enough to completely cover the existing 1.5 mile 520 floating bridge with 6-inches of dirt — or two-way topsoil, if you prefer.

Standing up to herons is one thing. Standing up to bulldozers is another. Will the red-eared sliders survive another man-made wetland? Come back in 50 years to find out.

20120524-221636.jpgImage: Montlaker

Why working tipsy and building floating bridges don’t mix

20120524-000052.jpgImage: KOMO

KOMO 4 News reports that WSDOT contract workers overseeing construction of the new 520 floating bridge have been regularly drinking on the job for months. And they’re not just having Friday 4pm beers, they’re slamming down several drinks a day while working at their desks. KOMO investigators visited the construction office in Bellevue and caught the action on tape.

Given our state’s history of building bridges that famously float – and then famously sink – maybe it’s time to sober up with a WSDOT version of Scared Straight circa Thanksgiving Day 1990: