SR 519 project nears finish line; see progress with Flickr construction slideshows

By Guest Blogger Greg Phipps

On Monday, Feb. 15, workers will take an important step toward completing the new Royal Brougham Way bridge in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. That morning crews will open the west end of the bridge for drivers to get into a new second floor entrance of the Qwest Event Center Garage. In terms of milestones, it’s a small one, because it only affects folks who park in the garage. But to me it’s a symbol that we’re getting closer to opening the bridge this spring.

The bridge is part of WSDOT’s SR 519 Intermodal Access project, which also includes a new I-90/I-5 off-ramp to the Atlantic Street overpass, and a wider First Avenue S./S. Atlantic Street intersection. Crews completed the intersection work in spring 2009. The bridge and ramp will open this spring, before major construction begins to replace the southern mile of the Alaskan Way Viaduct between Holgate and King streets. This will help keep traffic moving during construction and into the future, and provide a safe, elevated crossing over the railroad tracks west of Fourth Avenue S.

What the heck is intermodal, anyway?
Describing the project to the unfamiliar is sometimes difficult and a big stumbling block is the project name – the SR 519 Intermodal Access project. It’s a mouthful, and not terribly descriptive of the project and it’s benefits. The first problem is the highway name. Ask people where SR 519 is and you’ll probably get a blank stare. To clarify, SR 519 is the east-west corridor (Royal Brougham Way and S. Atlantic Street) that connects I-90 and I-5 to the Port of Seattle, the stadiums and the waterfront.

Then there’s that lovely term, "intermodal access". I tried writing a succinct explanation and I gave up, but I did try to break it down for you:

Inter is a prefix meaning between.
Modal refers to types of transportation.
Access is a means of entry or approach.

I suppose the project provides a means of entry or approach between multiple kinds of transportation. No wait, that doesn’t work either.

If a picture says a thousand words, how many words does a slide show say?
Then I had a better idea. Why not ditch the words and show people what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished so far. Thanks to the Flickr photo sharing Web site we can do just that through a powerful, but decidedly old-fashioned tool – the slide show.

With Flickr you can organize photos into sets and then sort the photos chronologically so you can follow the progress contractor crews have made since construction began. I sorted SR 519 photos into the following seven sets that take viewers through the last year and a-half of construction. Click on the slideshow link in the top right of each set's page to view the slideshow:

Royal Brougham Way Construction Progress tracks construction on the new structure that will span the railroad tracks from last April to this week.

I-90 Off-Ramp Construction Progress does the same for the new off-ramp to Atlantic Street

Construction workers shows the people on the job building the project

Going Underground looks at work that went into drilling and filling the pier shafts for the bridge and ramp.

A forest of falsework is my attempt to visually explain the critical role that temporary wooden and steel supports play in bridge and ramp construction.

Geofoam is a look at the unusual and dense styrofoam blocks that we’re using as fill on the project.

Construction closeups shows some of the smaller details of construction that the public doesn’t usually see.