The Northgate Bike and Pedestrian Bridge passed a key milestone on June 14 when the Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees agreed to an easement to route the bridge across the North Seattle College (NSC) campus. This decision is the culmination of months of discussion between NSC and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).
For the past six years, Feet First spearheaded a coalition effort to build the Northgate Bridge, a coalition that includes our friends at Cascade Bicycle Club, Sierra Club, local greenways groups and community councils, and interested residents. Past efforts convinced local decisionmakers to dedicate $35 million to build the bridge, including contributions from Sound Transit, the City of Seattle, and Washington state.
Last year negotiations began on the cross-campus alignment. The college preferred a straighter and more northerly route across campus, but their initial preferred alignment had several problems. It would have impacted the nearby Bartonwood Sanctuary, disturbing wetlands and necessitating the removal of many trees. The proposed alignment also threatened to disrupt the many utility lines running along that corridor, entailing very high restoration and/or relocation costs. SDOT and NSC finally settled on a compromise alignment that alleviated many of these concerns.
The next major milestone is completion of the NEPA environmental review process, which should happen this summer. The project also requires approval from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for construction over I-5. These last few hurdles do not appear to pose any significant threat to construction of the bridge, which is still scheduled to open by 2021, in time for the opening of the Northgate light rail station.
The bridge will be a tremendous boon for the Northgate community. According the City of Seattle, an estimated 7000 people would use the bridgevery day and daily light rail transit boardings at the Northgate station would increase by 5%. The bridge will tie two halves of north Seattle’s economic center together, creating economic, environmental, and health benefits for both communities. By linking NSC to the Northgate light rail station, the bridge will connect new students to educational and job training opportunities, and will bring new customers to businesses in the burgeoning Northgate Urban Center, for example NSC students who want to grab lunch or shop between classes.
Feet First and our coalition allies will continue to work with SDOT as the development of this important project moves forward.