During a ceremony on the state Route 520 floating bridge, Washington State Department of Transportation officials announced its grand opening is set for the beginning of April.
For employers like Microsoft and Delta Air Lines, among the sponsors for the grand opening, the bridge will help make it easier for their employees to commute to work.
Microsoft Vice President Steve Crown said that out of the 42,000 employees they have in the region, most of whom work at their Redmond campus, at least 6,000 commute across the current 520 bridge every day, and 42 percent of their employees use other transportation means besides driving in a car by themselves.
“This is a moment worth celebrating,” Crown said. “It is a moment that a lot of people and many organizations had a hand in making a reality. It is a fantastic demonstration of what we can achieve when we all work together on behalf of our region.”
Delta Air Lines Vice President Mike Medeiros said that, “as we are so intently focused on infrastructure improvement in Sea-Tac, we are just as intently focused on other infrastructure improvements here in the region that will help all of us as they are so important to the vital growth that we have going on in this great community and great region.”
Delta has around 3,000 employees in the region.
The bridge will also affect Kirkland residents and those who work in the city. According to city officials, 92 percent of those who work in Kirkland don’t live in Kirkland, and 90 percent of those who live in Kirkland don’t work there.
Following an official ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Gov. Jay Inslee, the bridge will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., during which visitors will be able to walk across the car-free roadway while stopping at a variety of interactive, STEM-focused stations and local food trucks. Delta Air Lines will hand out passports for people to stop at the bridge’s visitor stations, with the chance to win domestic and international airline tickets for two.
There will also be a 5K and 10K run/walk on the new floating bridge Saturday, sponsored by the Virginia Mason Heart Institute. On Sunday, April 3, there will be a 20-mile Emerald City Bike Ride put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Although both lanes won’t open during the grand opening, it will conclude the tumultuous five year construction project for the 1.5 mile long floating bridge, the longest one in the world. The original floating bridge parallel to it, only 130 feet shorter, was completed in 1961 and cost $21 million to build, $168 million when adjusted for inflation. The new bridge, in comparison, cost $4.65 billion. Once the new bridge opens to traffic, the old bridge will be closed and removed in sections.
The new bridge was originally set to open in December 2014 but poor weather and design errors in the pontoons caused construction problems and other delays, pushing the project over budget. The new bridge includes a 14-foot-wide shared-use path, shoulders for disabled vehicles and three lanes in each direction including a high-occupancy vehicle lane. The bridge also features sections to park and view the lake.
Another improvement over the original bridge, WSDOT officials say, is that the bridge is capable of withstanding twice the wind speed, roughly 89 miles per hour. It also will allow a 70 foot space for boats to pass underneath in order to avoid the need for a drawspan.
For more information about the grand opening, go to 520golong.com.