Monday, April 11, marked a historic first commute across the world’s longest floating bridge in Seattle as westbound traffic crossed the new State Route 520 bridge over Lake Washington.
Following a weekend closure, the Washington State Dept. of Transportation opened part of the bridge in the early-morning hours of April 11 to traffic moving west from Medina toward Seattle over the new, elevated 7,710-ft.-long bridge.
Eastbound traffic will remain on the existing bridge—which was the world’s longest floating bridge until the new one opened just a few feet to the north—for another two weeks.
WSDOT welcomed the public to the new bridge a week previously, as more than 50,000 runners, walkers and bicyclists joined in an event celebrating the accomplished work of the bridge. The weekend closure allowed crews time to pave, stripe lanes and move barriers in advances of the westbound traffic shift.
The safer floating bridge can now withstand windstorms up to 89 miles per hour, is elevated 20 feet above the pontoons to provide safety from crashing waves and allow bridge maintenance and logistics to be handled below the bridge and includes more lanes—three lanes moving in each direction versus the two lanes in each direction of the old bridge—and a 14-ft-wide bike and pedestrian path on the north side. The new shared-use path will open in late April or May.
Once the new bridge is fully operational, WSDOT plans to remove the old SR 520 bridge. The work will happen before the end of 2016 and the concrete pontoons are expected to find a life in other marine uses.
For the next two weeks, travelers can traverse the world’s longest floating bridge and the world’s second-longest floating bridge in the same commute.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.