Planners in Seattle, as a general rule, don't lilke pedestrian overpasses across downtown streets. People are supposed to descend to street level, where they interact with merchants and fellow citizens, before continuing to their destinations. Outside of downtown, however, people and bikes need to be separated from cars and trains.
At the south end of Interbay, the elegant helical "Amgen" bridge crosses the BN train tracks, connecting Elliott Avenue with the north end of Myrtle Edwards Park. And there's a pedestrian ramp from the Olympic Sculpture Park to Elliott Bay at the south end of the park.
A proposal to cross the tracks midway between the two was first floated in 1993, kicked around for years, studied, expanded twice (to include bicycle access, then to cross Elliott Avenue all the way to Lower Queen Anne. Years passed as permits were obtained and funding was nailed down. Now the bridge, formally known as the West Thomas Street Pedestrian and Bicycle Overpass Project, is finally complete. Without fanfare, it opened over the weekend to cyclists and pedestrians.
[Looking east from the overpass belevedere. Photo by Ronald Holden]
The eastern end of the bridge is halfway up the block at West Thomas and Third Avenue West, alongside the Washington Health Foundation building, with an ornamental arch by Roger Fernandez. Aftrer a slight rise, it reaches an elevation of 20 feet, high enough to clear the eight-lane roadway below. Then the span continues westward across the six sets of BN tracks before descending in a gentle zigzag to the grassy parkland at the water's edge, 932 feet from where it started.
According to Seattle Bike Blog, the overpass provides "straight shot" that has previously required Queen Anne cyclists to travel south to busy arterials to the Broad Street entrance to Myrtle Park."It's a big deal for the neighborhood, and is the start of a bikeability renaissance for Queen Anne."
Funding for the project came from two recent parks levies, grants from the Puget Sound Regional Council, from King County and from private donations. Total project cost was about $10 million. Which sounds like a lot, but then, it gives thousands of folks who live on the southwest slope of Queen Anne a park where they can jog, ride bikes or watch the sun set over the Olympics, none of which can happen at Seattle Center or Kerry Park.