As the SR 520 project continues into final design on the Seattle side, the City has concluded negotiations with the State on the first phase of mitigation funds for the Arboretum. The $7.8 million covered in this agreement will be used to develop a one mile multi-use trail for bicycle and pedestrian access connecting East Madison Street to the Montlake and University of Washington neighborhoods. They will also fund improvements to the Azalea Way Pond, parts of Arboretum Creek, and Foster Island.
These mitigation projects will create a safer environment for bicycle and pedestrian travel, and will also begin the process of improving the health of the ecosystems in the Arboretum by restoring water features and shoreline areas. All of the projects covered in this agreement are consistent with the Arboretum Master Plan approved by the Council.
Negotiations on Arboretum mitigation began in April 2011, and involved the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Arboretum and Botanical Garden Committee (ABGC), the Arboretum Foundation, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), and the University of Washington (UW). These six parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that outlined the goals for Arboretum mitigation, as well as the responsibilities of each of the entities in addressing impacts from the SR 520 Project. The parties signed a formal agreement outlining this first stage of mitigation in January of this year.
This is one more major step in completing this important transportation project. The SR 520 replacement project is intended to create a safer and more efficient freeway while making transit operations faster and more effective and adding bicycle/pedestrian access across Lake Washington. As we continue to work through the details of the project design on the Seattle side, we are finding ways to strengthen the transportation network that provides access to and through the Montlake Interchange, a crucial bottleneck. We are also working hard to ensure that the project integrates more responsibly with the surrounding community, and this agreement for Arboretum mitigation is an important step in that process.