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Originally published August 6, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 6, 2008 at 4:38 PM

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Port clears way for I-90 link to waterfront

A long-delayed road project connecting Interstate 90 with the Seattle waterfront can start this fall, after governments and sports teams in Sodo finally compromised on the design.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

A long-delayed road project joining Interstate 90 to the waterfront will begin this fall, after governments and sports teams finally compromised on where to put some huge ramps.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place Tuesday, when Port of Seattle commissioners approved a $5.5 million contribution to the $74 million funding plan.

Transportation leaders have tried since the 1990s to build Highway 519 — with a series of overpasses that would allow trucks from the east-west I-90 freeway to reach the Terminal 46 container port, without having to wait for north-south train traffic in Sodo.

The original plan, scrapped in 2003, would have placed the western terminus of the 3,100-mile-long freeway at Royal Brougham Way, north of Safeco Field. The Seattle Mariners, and later the city, opposed the design. It was a bad idea to mix tired truck drivers, a steep slope and 15,000 baseball fans crossing the street on game day, said Susan Ranf, the club's transportation director.

The new version calls for a smaller overpass to move local traffic above the train tracks at Royal Brougham. Traffic leaving westbound I-90 would soar above the tracks and be deposited at Edgar Martinez Drive South.

Work would be done by 2011, before a new Alaskan Way Viaduct interchange would open nearby.

Train horns are an internationally known quirk of a night at the ballpark. Under the new plan the tracks will be fenced off, so neither cars nor pedestrians can cross them.

Highlights of the plan include:

• South Royal Brougham Way will become a dead-end. To cross the tracks, drivers will take a two-lane loop overpass that starts at the stadium and descends east of the tracks.

• Pedestrians will no longer cross the tracks at surface level, on their way to buses, the Chinatown International District or the future Sound Transit light-rail stop. Instead, they will use stairs or an elevator to reach an overpass walkway.

The plan lacks a direct pedestrian bridge from the outfield concourse of the ballpark to beyond the tracks, which would make a postgame walk much easier. But that might be possible in the future, Ranf said.

• A two-lane, left-side exit from westbound I-90 will drop off traffic at a stoplight at Martinez Drive. The existing loop offramp to Fourth Avenue South will stay.

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• Edgar Martinez Drive will be widened to six lanes at the corner of First Avenue South, allowing easier left turns. Traffic there will be much busier.

This project is the second phase of a $184 million Highway 519 overhaul; the first phase was the 2004 project to create the eastbound freeway entryway at Martinez Drive.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

The information in this article, originally published August 6, 2008, was corrected August 6, 2008. The total cost to build road links between Interstate 90 and the Seattle waterfront, including Edgar Martinez Drive South, is $184 million. An earlier version of this story said the cost was $158 million, using incorrect numbers supplied by the Port of Seattle. Subtotals in the story were also incorrect.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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