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Arboretum Says Goodbye Highway Ramps, Hello Bike Trail

The so-called “ramps to nowhere” near the Washington Park Arboretum are due to come down. It’s part of the project to replace state Route 520 across Lake Washington.  Arboretum officials announced new details Thursday about changes to the park.

The ramps sit in Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood near the north end of the arboretum. They look like any other highway ramps but they’re not connected to a highway. “Many Seattleites in the summertime used to use (these) as their jumping into the lake point,” said Paige Miller, executive director of the Arboretum Foundation.

Technically, no one is supposed to be on the ramps; there are signs that say no trespassing. But people are using them as places to hang out. Beer cans, liquor bottles and a deck of cards were strewn over the concrete and moss.

The ramps date back to the 1960s when there were plans to build a new freeway parallel to Interstate 5.  But the highway project was eventually killed. Miller said some people have grown to appreciate the ramps. “There were people who suggested that they be repurposed and have plants put on them and kept. And there was a resounding feeling that, no, people wanted them gone,” she said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says the ramp removal is expected to start in 2016, and will be paid for by a federal loan that will be given to the state. WSDOT is also helping pay for other changes to the arboretum, including a new bike and pedestrian trail designed to run through the park. Miller said the new trail will ultimately connect Madison Street with the Burke-Gilman Trail. It’s expected to be complete in late 2015.

Year started with KUOW: 1998.