Ghost ramps

Washington State Route 520

State Route 520 is a state highway and freeway in the U.S. state of Washington. It extends 12.82 miles from Seattle in the west to Redmond in the east.

Route description

SR-520 originates at Interstate 5 in Seattle at the north end of Capitol Hill just south of Roanoke Park.

It bridges Portage Bay on a viaduct, crosses through the Montlake neighborhood, and continues east on a causeway through the marshlands of the Washington Park Arboretum and across Foster Island. From there it crosses Lake Washington on the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge (1963) to Medina. At 7,578 feet (2,310m), it is the longest floating bridge in the world.

From Medina, it traces the border between Hunts Point and Yarrow Point to the north, and Clyde Hill to the south. Intersecting with Interstate 405 in Bellevue, it then runs into Redmond. It bisects the Microsoft campus, passes Nintendo of America headquarters and crosses the Sammamish River and Bear Creek, before ending at a junction with State Route 202. A set of ramps connecting SR-520 to Avondale Road NE were completed in 1996.

The original name of the freeway in planning documents was the Roanoke Expressway and later the Roanoke Freeway, due to its terminus at Interstate 5 near Roanoke Street and Roanoke Park in Seattle.

Planning history

SR-520 first appears on planning maps in the late 1950s. It is not in the 1956 Comprehensive Plan of Seattle, in which the preferred second bridge crossing of Lake Washington connects Sand Point and Juanita (now part of Kirkland).

In the 1963 and 1967 revisions of the King County Streets and Highways Plan, SR-520 appears in its entirety. The segment from I-5 to I-405 is shown as existing or "to be improved"; the segment from I-405 to SR-202 is shown as "proposed".

The 1967 Puget Sound Regional Council of Governments recommended freeway system omits the segment from I-405 to SR-202, replacing it with a freeway from the Sand Point-Kirkland bridge (then proposed as a third Lake Washington crossing) along the current route of SR-908, deviating southward near West Lake Sammamish Parkway to end at the current SR-520 terminus. In this plan, SR-520 ends at I-405.

All planning maps from 1974 onward show the SR-520 routing as it currently exists.

Construction history

With the completion of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge in August 1963, SR-520 opened to traffic. Originally, it was legislatively defined as PSH-1 EP (Primary State Highway 1, Evergreen Point branch). The road was signed as PSH-1 without the branch designation.

When the new numbering system for Washington highways took effect in 1964, SR-520 ran from I-5 to the junction of Lake Washington Boulevard NE and Lincoln Avenue (now Bellevue Way).

By 1966, SR-520 extended east to I-405.

The segment from I-405 to 148th Avenue NE opened in the early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the segment between West Lake Sammamish Parkway and SR-202 opened with the route number State Route 920 as a Super-2 freeway. This segment was widened to a divided 4-lane freeway by 1990.

The final segment of SR-520 between 148th Avenue NE and West Lake Sammamish Parkway opened circa 1979. At this time, SR-920 was redesignated as SR-520.

In the late 1980s, the shoulder of westbound SR-520 from Bellevue Way to the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was converted for use as a HOV lane. In the 1990s, both sides of SR-520 from 124th Avenue Northeast to Lake Sammamish Parkway were widened to add a HOV lane, and collector-distributor lanes were added from NE 40th Street to W Lake Sammamish Parkway. A new interchange was built at NE 40th Street to accomodate expansion of the Microsoft and Nintendo of America corporate campuses.

Ongoing improvements

Because of massive residential, commercial, and industrial growth in the Eastside over the past 15 years, several projects have been proposed to improve the entire stretch of State Route 520.

  • Replacement of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge and freeway expansion to 6 lanes (2 general-purpose/1 HOV per side) between Interstate 5 and Interstate 405.
  • Freeway expansion to 8 lanes (2 general-purpose/1 HOV/1 auxiliary lane per side) between West Lake Sammamish Parkway and State Route 202, along with widening existing ramps between SR-202 and Avondale Road to 2 lanes.)
  • Construction of an overpass connecting NE 36th Street and NE 31st Street on the Microsoft campus.
  • Eastbound collector-distributor lanes between Interstate 405 and 124th Avenue NE as part of I-405 braided-ramp improvements between NE 8th Street and SR-520 in Bellevue.

Proposed improvements

  • A flyover ramp from westbound SR-520 to southbound Interstate 405 is currently deferred due to lack of construction funds.
  • The Sound Transit 2 proposal would add a Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) line to the entire SR-520 corridor, and a light rail extension joining the corridor in the vicinity of Overlake, continuing to the Overlake Transit Center on the Microsoft campus.
  • A contingent of Seattle citizens continue to advocate for an 8-lane replacement for the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge despite the state's preference of the 6-lane replacement.

Completed improvements

  • The flyover ramp from westbound State Route 202 to SR-520 opened in Spring 2008.
  • SR-520 between Bellevue Way and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge was paved with quiet asphalt pavement as a test bed in Fall 2007.
  • Ramps connecting the end of SR-520 from SR-202 to Avondale Road were completed in 1996.

Ghost ramps

SR 520 features a set of ghost ramps in the marshlands of Washington Park Arboretum. They are often referred to as "ramps to nowhere". However, there are 2 ramps currently used for the Westbound 520 off ramp connection to the Washington Park Arboretum while the other serves as an on ramp only to SR 520 Eastbound. The others are unused. They were originally part of a plan to build the R. H. Thompson Expressway which would have cut through the arboretum and down through Seattle towards the I-90/I-5 interchange. Citizens rallied a freeway revolt against the plan on May 4, 1969. Construction near the Arboretum later continued but citizen protest eventually won out and the plan was dropped in 1971.

The freeway revolt that stopped the R. H. Thompson Expressway had its origins in opposition to SR 520 itself. Architect Victor Steinbrueck, writing in 1962, objected to the "naked brutaility of unimaginative structures such as this proposed crossing of Portage Bay, which eliminates fifty houseboats while casting its shadow and noise across this tranquil boat haven.

Exit list

The entire route is in King County.
Location Mile Destinations Notes
Seattle 0.00 Portland, Vancouver Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
0.19 Roanoke Street, Harvard Avenue Westbound exit only
0.94 Montlake Boulevard (SR 513) – University of Washington
1.31 Lake Washington Boulevard Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
3.07 Evergreen Point Floating Bridge over Lake Washington
Hunts Point 4.59 84th Avenue Northeast Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
Yarrow Point,
Clyde Hill
5.17 92nd Avenue Northeast Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Bellevue 5.97 Bellevue Way Northeast, Lake Washington Boulevard Northeast Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; former SR 908
6.27 108th Avenue Northeast No eastbound exit
7.52 124th Avenue Northeast Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
9.17 148th Avenue Northeast
10.13 Northeast 40th Street The Northeast 40th Street interchange was not part of the original SR-520 plan but was constructed circa 1998.
10.73 Northeast 51st Street Completed in 1986.
11.79 West Lake Sammamish Parkway Northeast Former SR 901
12.82 Avondale Road Continuation beyond SR 202


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