While we wait for our esteemed leaders to announce their preferred choice

While we wait for our esteemed leaders to announce their preferred choice for rebuilding the Viaduct– an edict likely to still get worked over by the legislature– it seems fitting to pay homage to an idea that never made far from the cutting room floor: the bridge over Elliott Bay. Though it was for a short while, option No. 11, WSDOT eventually determined it too costly and too potentially harmful to the environment. For one thing, the bay is so deep that the footings for the bridge would’ve had to have been the “size of a football field,” says Viaduct program spokeswoman Emily Fishkin. But one Burien architect says he’s got a way around that. Roger Patten currently has a patent pending for a buoyancy stabilization system, a kind of floating foot ideal for a bay with a mud bottom that’s covered with more than 200 feet of water, he says. “The buoyancy supplied is enough to offset the load of the bridge and any external forces,” Patten explains. “It’s not susceptible to tsunamis or earthquakes and is less expensive than most foundation systems.”Problem is, a bridge with such a foundation has never been built anywhere else, though similar technology is used for stabilizing offshore oil rigs. Walter Blair, a retired engineer who used to consult on oil rig projects, argues that Patten’s idea should’ve been given a chance. “WSDOT rejected the [Elliott Bay Bridge] because they thought you would have to pour massive concrete footings,” he says. “You wouldn’t want to do that. This is so gentle. It won’t harm anything.”Fishkin says WSDOT considered some floating technologies for the bridge option, but that the problem, other than expense, is that they are untested. Patten isn’t new to bringing an original view on how to construct public works projects to the city. He’s been doing it, with little luck, for decades. And he’s not giving up on buoyancy stabilization anytime soon. Patten’s also pitching it for the reconstruction of the 520 Bridge. He hopes to have his patent for the technology in four months.


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