Burien’s Roger Patten Floats New, Patented Idea For 520 Bridge

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by Rachel M. Lusby

Burien resident Roger Patten, of Roger Patten AIA, says he has come up with the best way to replace bridge structures such as the 520 floating bridge by way of his invention, the “buoyancy stabilized pier.”

Patten has patented this new idea and wants to formally present it to the Seattle City Council soon.

The concept of the buoyancy stabilized pier is that the pier structure itself would have a chamber which is filled with either air or some other buoyant substance. This would create, as the patent states, a “buoyant force.” The pier structure would be able to absorb the shock of an earthquake or a tsunami, as it would move along with the earthquake and would not break apart during the tsunami.

“It doesn’t depend on Earth’s stability,” Patten says.

Roger Patten in his Burien office.

To build such a structure, says Patten based on research of the cost of materials and labor, “would cost about $2 billion dollars less” than what is being proposed to the city of Seattle currently regarding the 520 floating bridge.

The buoyancy stabilized bridge is different in comparison to a floating bridge in that it is embedded in the sea floor, and held by the sea pressure which forces the bottom into the soil. The buoyancy actually stabilizes the load.

In regard to the 520 bridge replacement, Patten’s idea gives thought not only to the structure itself, but also to accessibility to recreational facilities for residents and tourists. This new bridge concept would cross Lake Washington, Lake Union and Portage Bay. Traffic on the upper level of the bridge would be uninterrupted the entire way until reaching 1-5, while the lower level would be designed for metro, light rail, biking and pedestrians, allowing them easy access to places such as the Arboretum.

“This is much less expensive than what they’re proposing to do,” says Patten, “and there would be no traffic interruptions while in construction.”

Illustration from Roger Patten's patent.

The part under the patent is the stabilizing structure itself. The actual bridge structure could be designed in any manner. However, the design Patten has come up with for the bridge allows for light rail access, metro, pedestrians and bicyclists. It gives thought to development of other areas, such as the usage of Portage Bay and the north shore of the Arboretum.

Patten wants to apply this idea for a buoyancy stabilized pier to many other bridge structures, not only including local projects such as the Viaduct and Elliot Bay Bridge, but also for projects in other parts of the world; places such as Sicily or the Mediterranean.

The patent for the buoyancy stabilized structure will stand for 17 years.

Patten's patented design “would cost about $2 billion dollars less” than what is being proposed to the city of Seattle currently regarding the 520 floating bridge.

Here’s a video released by the Washington State Department of Transportation showing their “preferred alternative” version of the proposed 520 bridge:

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One Response to “Burien’s Roger Patten Floats New, Patented Idea For 520 Bridge”
  1. Coverofnight says:

    If this will save a couple of billion dollars, I say it’s worth looking at. You can read the patent at:


    I say dovetail his idea with the covered decks of the WSDOT video and we’d have a pretty nice looking bridge replacement project.

    Nice job, Roger……….old guys rock!

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