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House passes bill to move forward on Eastside 520 work

The state House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to advance renovation of State Route 520 along the Eastside.

The entire 520 corridor is scheduled for a makeover, with separate projects planned for the eastern and western portions, along with a replacement of the floating bridge.

Eastside legislators have been trying to ward off any hold ups for work on their end of the highway as fighting continues over how to build everything west of Medina.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn wants two of the six bridge lanes dedicated exclusively for transit.

Meanwhile, a coalition of neighborhood groups is working to alter the project footprint near Washington Park Arboretum and provide a connection that won't, in theory, slow bus service to the proposed light-rail station at the University of Washington.

The House bill gives those groups a chance to hash out their differences with the state's preferred plan while construction moves forward along the Eastside.

Work on the eastern segment will focus primarily on creating continuous HOV lanes from Medina to SR-202 and adding a direct-access interchange for transit and HOV at 108th Ave. NE, as well as new highway lids connecting local neighborhoods.

The entire 520 renovation is expected to cost between $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion.

State gas taxes, federal grants, and tolls will cover $2 billion or more of the overall price tag.

A panel of state lawmakers has recommended covering the remaining cost by tolling the existing 520 bridge beginning Spring 2011, charging solo drivers to use express lanes on the I-90 bridge, and applying for federal and state grants.

The group also proposed tolling the entire I-90 bridge in the event that those measures do not produce the funds needed to complete the project.

The House bill now moves to the Senate, where it originated, for approval.

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