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Mark Your Calendar: Next 520 Bridge Closure Slated for Last Weekend in August

This weekend's closure included the annual inspection of the bridge and the reconstruction of a culvert for a fish-bearing stream. There will be four more weekend closures with the next one expected for the last weekend in August.

Though the full closure of the State Route 520 bridge caused a day of heavy traffic and backups on Interstate 90, the Washington State Department of Transportation expects to complete multiple projects across the closed section of highway this weekend.

The state announced that because of the backups on I-90, the express lanes will remain westbound until 1 p.m. Monday. SR 520 is expected to reopen at 5 a.m. Monday.

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The Washington State Department of Transportation also announced the next scheduled full weekend closure -- the weekend of Aug. 26-29. A full-weekend closure is expected once a month through November to replace required culverts for the state's highway widening project. This weekend is the second of six scheduled full-weekend closures.

The Washington State Department of Transportation scheduled:

  • The annual inspection of the bridge's drawspan, which opens in bad weather and sometimes at night to allow ships on Lake Washington to pass through.
  • The creation of fish culvert that will allow salmon to pass underneath the highway.
  • The installation and testing of a sign for the upcoming State Route 520 Bridge tolls, which were expected to begin in April but has now been pushed back to August at the earliest.

 

Bridge inspection

Archie Allen, WSDOT bridge maintenance superintendent, likened the bridge's annual inspection of the bridge's draw span to a car's "60,000 mile check-up," with engineers and maintenance checking out the steel guide rollers that keep the bridge safe and operational.

The floating bridge's draw span opens to allow ships to pass through and during strong windy stormsis stormy to prevent damage to the bridge, he said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation also took the opportunity towork on other projects that might have needed a full or partial closure.

Making fish happier

The entire width of the freeway was removed just east of the Evergreen Point Road overpass, and an old stream culvert was removed and replaced with one that will more effectively simulate a natural stream, because it will be lined with river rocks and other natural material, said Brian Dobbins, WSDOT construction engineer.

The new fish culvert is part of the 2.5-mile, $306 million project underway between Evergreen Point Road in Medina and 108th Avenue NE in Bellevue. The project will:

  • Widen SR 520 and create carpool lanes in both directions.
  • Widen the shoulders, so disabled vehicles will not block the lanes of traffic.
  • Create three landscaped lids over SR 520, two with access to new transit stops.
  • Add a bike and pedestrian lane to SR 520.
  • Create environmental improvements, including improvements to streams and noise barriers.

That project is part of a $4.65 billion plan to improve SR 520. The state legislature decided that $2.37 billion of the amount will be paid through state and federal funding and tolls. The rest has yet to be determined.

Signs for tolls

Crews also worked on a sign that will display the variable tolls on the bridge. The signs will show the current price of the tolls, which will vary throughout the day. The toll at peak time was set by the legislature at $3.50 and will vary throughout the day.

Tolls were scheduled to start in April, but has been delayed until at least August because of testing of the tolling system, which will be toll-booth free, according to officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation ().

Instead, the tolls will be collected electronically. Motorists can start a Good to Go account with the state and have the tolls deducted from the account. For cars without the Good to Go system installed, the state will collect the tolls by recording all the license plate numbers that cross the bridge and mailing a bill to the registered owners of vehicles that cross the bridge, with a $1.50 surcharge.

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