At the Sound Transit Board meeting on Thursday, February 28, the Board approved a resolution creating The Overlake Village Bridge Project, along with two motions agreeing to jointly design the bridge in cooperation with the City of Redmond and approving a contract setting the design process in motion. The Board action endorses a proposed pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting the Link station at the Overlake Village in Redmond across SR 520 to the Microsoft/Honeywell campuses on the north side of the freeway. This action moves the project through 4 phases of Sound Transit’s project cycle in one fell swoop, all the way from concept to final design.

Sound Transit will only contribute $75,000 to this design phase, with the City of Redmond contributing the remainder of the $1.9 million cost. Most of Redmond’s costs, in turn, are being funded by a federal grant, with the City only kicking in about $200,000.

This bridge was evaluated as part of the environmental review for East Link, but is not funded as part of the East Link project. Once the project reaches the 60% design level and construction costs can be estimated accurately, the partners will seek to identify funding to complete the bridge construction. If that funding can be identified, the bridge will be constructed by Sound Transit as part of East Link.

It’s exciting to see more options developed to connect the north side of 520 to Sound Transit’s light rail line on the south side, especially options that focus on pedestrian and bicycle access. The result will be a more attractive travel package for light rail passengers in this important employment center.

The two sides of the freeway are currently linked several blocks west of the Overlake Station at a major interchange where 148th Avenue NE crosses the freeway, but this is not a very hospitable environment for pedestrians and bicycles, requiring them to cross access ramps that are part of the interchange. Microsoft funded another multi-modal bridge several blocks east of the Overlake Village Station, going diagonally across 520 from NE 31st Street on the south to NE 36th Street on the north side.

While these two crossings make pedestrian and bicycle crossings possible, they do not make them as attractive and easy to use as would be optimum. That’s where the Overlake Village Bridge comes in, making it possible to exit the train and cross directly to the north side when leaving the station. And, since it connects to the east-west bike/ped path on the north side of 520, which will run all the way into Seattle, it also makes it easy to get to other nearby destinations on foot or by bike, and facilitates mixed commutes like taking transit in the morning and returning home by bike.

This is the same type of crossing that is now in development at the Northgate Station to get across I-5, but the Overlake Village Bridge will be less expensive, as the distance is much shorter. And, on the planning horizon is another possible bike/ped bridge, connecting to the next light rail station, at the Overlake Transit Center, not far down the road. The City of Redmond and Sound Transit are thinking proactively about how to knit this community, sundered by SR 520, together to make it possible for light rail to be fully integrated with pedestrian and bicycle traffic in a truly transit oriented model.