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Fix the existing 520 bridge...

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  • Andrew Kwatinetz
    The more I think about the bridge discussion from Wed night, the more I feel strongly that we need to get a new proposal back on the table: Fixing the
    Message 1 of 2 , Jul 2, 2004
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      The more I think about the bridge discussion from Wed night, the more I feel strongly that we need to get a new proposal back on the table:  Fixing the existing bridge.

       

      I totally understand why building a brand new 520 bridge sounds like the most sensible choice.  There are so many problems with the current bridge:  engineering, traffic, narrow shoulders, awkward exits, etc.  However, millions of dollars and countless man-hours later, the best solutions we have are still unacceptable:  highways that rise & fall like a rollercoaster, acres of public park land “repurposed”, huge noise & encroachment impact on the neighborhood, billions of dollars, years of construction mess, and for what??  Even the DOT admits the traffic levels on the new highway will still be an F rating, not many more cars will pass through, all of the arterials will be clogged, and the feature most responsible for demand management (tolling) could be implemented on the existing highway.

       

      At the meeting on Wed, the engineering group made the claim that the current bridge can’t be fixed.  That makes no sense to me.  I have an engineering degree & have spent my whole career managing projects with engineers, and this is a phenomena I see time and time again:  engineers LOVE to build from scratch.  If they had to fix the current bridge, there must be a way.  Even if it took a billion dollars, that would still save over a billion dollars on the project.  Rather than continue to spend millions on EIS & planning & engineering on a dead-end solution, they should cut their losses and re-focus on the only solutions that will really help area traffic:  transit & demand management.

       

      Anybody agree?  Any ideas of what we can do to get them to consider this?

       

      Thanks,

      Andrew

    • oliver.ochs@att.net
      My take is that it s like an old car. It s usually much cheaper to run an old car and put up with the intermittent repair bills compared to buying a new car
      Message 2 of 2 , Jul 2, 2004
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        My take is that it's like an old car.  It's usually much cheaper to run an old car and put up with the intermittent repair bills compared to buying a new car that's under warrenty.  The obvious idea would be to convince WSDOT (or whomever) that it will be cheaper and not significantly worse for traffic not to replace the bridge at this time.  Just as with a car though, eventually the ongoing repairs and threatened catastrophic failure become higher than the incremental cost of replacing the car.

         

        It's not a perfect comparison since much of the savings in running an old car come from decreased tax and insurance costs.  I don't know when the break even point occurs, and I don't know it it's been looked at in this instance. 

         

        Further, there may be underlying structural problems that can't be fixed that are not clearly delineated including problems with the intitial design of the bridge rather than just the "wearing out" of parts that can be replaced.  Unfortunately the bridge can't be replaced as built due to what I would call "code" issues, which is unfortunately occasionally the only way to make adequate repairs. 

         

        I think one aspect of this problem could be looked at in terms of how much of the bridge and the associated structures can be replaced and have the work termed a "repair."  Obviously some can, since they can, for example, replace the paving, lights, etc.  Whether the "repair but don't replace" clause could be applied to larger components of the structure to be replaced (including entire structural elements) rather than repaired would be a legal question.

         

        You have a good point though in that the sense of urgency with repsect to the corridor has much to do with the purported impending catastrophic failure of either of the bridge structures.  Timing wise it would be better to plan out the replacement of 520 once the plans for the I-5 improvement are set.  In any case, aside for my pitiful analogy, I have no suggestions except to say that I agree it should be looked into.

         

        Oliver 

        -------------- Original message from "Andrew Kwatinetz" : --------------

        The more I think about the bridge discussion from Wed night, the more I feel strongly that we need to get a new proposal back on the table:  Fixing the existing bridge.

         

        I totally understand why building a brand new 520 bridge sounds like the most sensible choice.  There are so many problems with the current bridge:  engineering, traffic, narrow shoulders, awkward exits, etc.  However, millions of dollars and countless man-hours later, the best solutions we have are still unacceptable:  highways that rise & fall like a rollercoaster, acres of public park land �repurposed�, huge noise & encroachment impact on the neighborhood, billions of dollars, years of construction mess, and for what??  Even the DOT admits the traffic levels on the new highway will still be an F rating, not many more cars will pass through, all of the arterials will be clogged, and the feature most responsible for demand management (tolling) could be implemented on the existing highway.

         

        At the meeting on Wed, the engineering group made the claim that the current bridge can�t be fixed.  That makes no sense to me.  I have an engineering degree & have spent my whole career managing projects with engineers, and this is a phenomena I see time and time again:  engineers LOVE to build from scratch.  If they had to fix the current bridge, there must be a way.  Even if it took a billion dollars, that would still save over a billion dollars on the project.  Rather than continue to spend millions on EIS & planning & engineering on a dead-end solution, they should cut their losses and re-focus on the only solutions that will really help area traffic:  transit & demand management.

         

        Anybody agree?  Any ideas of what we can do to get them to consider this?

         

        Thanks,

        Andrew


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