The 520 bridge “ramps to nowhere,” lingering landmarks to unfinished highway plans for more than four decades, will be torn down, officials announced Thursday.
Along with that aesthetic improvement to the roadway, construction will begin next year on a one-mile trail through the Washington Park Arboretum. The trail will be east of Lake Washington Boulevard, from East Madison Street to the low Wilcox Bridge. It will be 10 feet wide, flanked by two feet of gravel the upland side and two feet of landscaping on the other side. Pedestrians, strollers, bicyclists and skaters would share the path, to be designed for low speed.
Jack Collins, chairman of the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee, announced the agreement Thursday, with the state Department of Transportation, University of Washington, Arboretum Foundation, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. The state’s Highway 520 replacement program is paying $7.8 million for arboretum improvements, mainly the trail, as part of a $382 million “Lake to Land” segment of the new Highway 520 bridge.
The floating section of the new 520 bridge is expected to open in early 2015.
The ghost ramps will be removed at a cost of about $15 million, as part of the “Lake to Land” the highway construction contract, from 2014-16. It’s unclear yet whether the ramps would be removed at the beginning, or later in the road work, said Julie Meredith, DOT’s 520 project director.
The ramp shown above was to be part of an R.H. Thomson Expressway connecting the Central District to Interstate 5. After citizen protests, the Seattle City Council killed the project in 1971, as this HistoryLink essay explains.
For decades, young people have leapt from the 38-foot-high overpass into the 12-foot deep fen in summertime, feet reaching the silty bottom. Skateboarders have built quarter-pipe ramps on the roadbed. A short walk to the east is a popular picnic spot, where swimmers can cross the water and climb aboard a lower-level ghost ramp.
The nearby greenspace, a former landfill owned by the state transportation department, will be annexed into the arboretum and replanted, mainly with native grasses.
Other ramps there, connecting Lake Washington Boulevard to Highway 520, remain in use by drivers, and will remain pending a future, currently-unfunded stage of the new bridge construction, perhaps by the early 2020s. They will not be rebuilt — instead, drivers will take 23rd Avenue East and enter 520 at a bigger Montlake Boulevard interchange.