Introducing The Bainbridge-Bellevue Freeway: Bridge To Somewhere


With the state government so gungho about new highway construction we might as well build more of them whether they make sense or not. Widening I-405? Fine. Extending SR-167? Amateur. I can draw lines on a map too. So, here’s an idea that would go further than the current SR-520 rebuild: extend that freeway to Bainbridge Island to connect with Bellevue. It might create jobs and decreate congestion. The opportunities are endless with enough concrete.

Sure, Bainbridge already has a ferry to Seattle. But let’s face it, ferries are old school and slow while 21st century lifestyles are fast and self-gratifying. The ferry takes 35 minutes, and from there driving to the region’s real job center, Bellevue, is another 20 minutes on the best days. This is a total of 55 minutes. To achieve an astounding 25-minute commute, this baby is going to need to be an elevated, double decker, six-lane expressway between a high end residential enclave and a high end commercial enclave. Go big or go home. And as they say, the best transportation plan has something to do with land uses.

Who needs a thin dashed orange line when you can have a thick solid red one? (Graphic by the author)

The total addition is nine miles. Crossing Puget Sound will require a 3.5-mile long bridge or tunnel. I’d opt for the bridge option since it’d look cool and would be easier to build, considering our recent highway tunnel efforts. If anyone cares about cargo and cruise ships, I guess part of it would probably need to be a suspension bridge to get to the required height, but most of the bridge could be floating. Thankfully, our state transportation department is really great at building floating bridges. After reaching Seattle, the freeway would need to demolish a few houses, span across the Interbay valley with another bridge, and then cross Lake Union with a third bridge.

I’m starting to see a theme here. The project could be called the “Bainbridge to Bellevue Bridges”, or BBB, the same acronym as the Better Business Bureau. And this project would certainly be better for business.

For good measure, we can throw in some sidewalks and a couple of bike lanes for the foolhardy souls who think traveling without a 3,000 pound friend is fun. But, it would be a long trek across the bridge, so a Starbucks in the center of the span would be a good resting point. Indeed, the coffee chain would probably be willing to engage in a public-private partnership to help build the project and may even chip in funding. We could also readily hand the reins to a private company to toll this thing for us, because we know what a stellar record that has in Washington.

1950s cross sound bridges map. A missed opportunity. (Washington SOS)

And fear not, transit advocates. Buses would be free to use the bridge and come and go as they please! But giving them their own lanes would surely be an excessive waste of public funds, considering that bus riders pay no taxes whatsoever. And don’t even think about light rail. Sound Transit would need to first do a seven-year environmental study and then take another 15 years to build anything. Don’t you know autonomous vehicles will make transit obsolete by then?

And let’s not worry about maintenance funding. That’s something for future generations to debate. Repaving road decks and checking for cracks doesn’t merit sexy ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and ribbon-cutting is all that really matters to voters.

While the BBB may be visionary, our forefathers envisioned an even grander scheme in which a similar route would not only extend to Bainbridge Island, but beyond to Bremerton and the Kitsap Peninsula. The BBB will finally fulfill that vision after 60 years. Coincidentally, there are also plans in the works for building a similar freeway from Alki Point to the southern end of Bainbridge Island that would also fulfill an old dream. And a strapping state legislator from the Kitsap Peninsula has proposed an ingenious bridge built of aircraft carriers to span the Sinclair Inlet between Port Orchard and Bremerton. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it first.

Our region is growing, and there are dollars to be made with shady contracts and moving freight or whatever. We need to drive from point A to all of the other points today and without delay, and the BBB will build upon our constitutional right to Level of Service A. Contact your legislators now and tell them to build a more convenient commute through whatever pesky neighborhoods and precious marine habitats stand in the way. Today we can demand that the transportation of tomorrow be nothing more than the freeways of yesterday.

Happy April Fools’ from everyone here at The Urbanist.This article is a cross-post from The Northwest Urbanist.

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Scott Bonjukian is a car-free urban designer with a passion for sustainable and efficient cities. With degrees in architecture and urban planning, his many interests include neighborhood design, public space and street design, transit systems, pedestrian and bicycle planning, local politics, and natural resource protection. He primarily cross-posts from his blog at The Northwest Urbanist and advocates for a variety of progressive land use and transportation solutions.


  1. At least you didn’t run it through Discovery Park and ruin it like they have done around Foster Island.

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