Posted by Brad Smith
Anyone who has traveled from downtown Seattle to Microsoft’s corporate campus likely has encountered one of our region’s unique transportation challenges: Lake Washington, the large body of water that separates Seattle from Redmond, Bellevue and other heavily-populated Eastside suburbs.
Local commuters depend on two floating bridges to get across Lake Washington every day. One of them, the four-lane Highway 520 floating bridge, is 47 years old and in urgent need of replacement. State engineers warn that the bridge could sink in a major storm or earthquake.
Yet more than 5,000 Microsoft employees commute across the 520 bridge daily. Thousands more local residents use the 520 bridge to reach jobs both downtown and on the Eastside.
Given the importance of 520 as a transportation and economic corridor, the Washington state legislature three years ago approved a replacement design for the 520 bridge. An agreed-upon funding plan is in place and contracts are ready to begin building the new bridge pontoons. Governor Christine Gregoire, state legislators and local leaders have worked hard to bring this important project closer to reality, and we commend them for their efforts.
In the coming weeks the state legislature will make key decisions on whether to keep the project on track. These include authorizing Eastside construction and establishing a tolling system. While final design issues must still be sorted out with the City of Seattle about the western configuration of the project, we should not let last-minute objections undermine the hard-won agreements already in place.
Microsoft has long been an advocate for the timely replacement and expansion of the 520 bridge, and we are part of a broad coalition of civic leaders, labor unions, business organizations and local governments supporting the project.
Given the critical juncture of the 520 bridge replacement, we are working with our partners to urge decisive action now. We are encouraging our employees and local residents who support the project to contact their local legislators, and we have established a Web site, http://520bridge.posterous.com, where people can learn more.
We believe it’s time to come together as a region and a state and start construction on the new 520 bridge.