SBAB Notes: City studying options for widening Ballard Bridge sidewalk

We’re trying a new feature here at Seattle Bike Blog. I have been going to the monthly Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board meetings for a while now. Usually, I just take notes and use them to gather material for future stories. But this month, I’m posting some interesting bits of info so you all know what’s going on. Some things I may expand later, but this will give you a taste of the kind of stuff the Board discusses.

Also, note that there is no July meeting since the first Wednesday is July 4.

Ballard Bridge Update

The city is beginning a study to try to assess what opportunities exist for widening the sidewalks on the Ballard Bridge. The study, which is at least five months from completion, will look at three things:

  • Is there some way to widen the sidewalk within the existing space? For example, can we shave off those concrete pillars that jut into the sidewalk?
  • Is it possible to widen the sidewalks? This will require a study to see if the structure can support such an expansion.
  • If the structure can support a widened sidewalk, the study will assess what sort of environmental studies, etc would be required.

The 2007 Bicycle Master Plan called for some kind of new biking and walking bridge to the west of the current Ballard Bridge. This plan has not been designed or significantly studied, but it would certainly be expensive (and awesome). A proposed walking and biking bridge over I-5 in Northgate is estimated to be $20 million, so it’s probably safe to assume this would be at least that much. So it would be good to know if there are any other options for the Ballard Bridge, which is among the worst bicycle facilities in the city and one of the top large project priorities for the bicycle network.

In other Ballard news, the walkway at the Ballard Locks was damaged by a collision Sunday. So be prepared for issues if you use the Locks to cross the ship canal.

Other spot improvements

The city is also making a couple other small improvements soon. They will move the Cherry St bike lane in the Central District to the correct side of the street between 23rd Ave and 18th Ave. Currently, the bike lane goes downhill in the door zone (bad) and people headed up the steep hill have only sharrows. The city admits they made a mistake when installing it a few years ago and will switch it to a bike lane uphill, sharrows downhill (there is not enough room to have bike lanes in each direction without removing parking).

The city will add a new bike lane and bike box on SW Andover St between Delridge Way SW and the future 26th Ave SE neighborhood greenway (near the place with a HUGE American flag).

And the city has more good news for West Seattle commuters: They will install a green bike lane and a “crossbikes” on E Marginal Way between S Hinds St and S Hanford St to help make people biking on this industrial connector more visible.

The city has also been repairing the roadway on 34th Ave/Madrona Drive to get it ready for a new bike facility to connect the Madrona neighborhood center to Lake Washington Boulevard. Awesome.

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23 Responses to SBAB Notes: City studying options for widening Ballard Bridge sidewalk

  1. Anthony says:

    OK, I’ll save the city some money…WIDEN THE SIDEWALK. No need for a study. Make every other or third section between concrete posts similar to a bay window. That way a walker or biker can “dip” into the bay and respective parties can pass one another.

    The only reason this is coming up in my opinion is because the city is sucking so BAD at painting the Ballard Bridge(the new Big Dig project???), and are probably just floating this out as a teaser for Seattle cyclists. They don’t actually give a crap about us, if they did then we would’ve had made signs alerting cars to bicycles on the bridge. Instead they told bikes to “detour”, which essentially means “get off the bridge”.

    No wonder Portland is WAY ahead of Seattle in terms of cycling.

  2. LWC says:

    Regarding the Andover bike lane: great news! I was very nearly hit at this intersection by a driver who got frustrated by traffic and at the last minute (with no turn signal) turned right into the driveway of the large office building to avoid the stop light. A bike lane would not necessarily prevent this sort of illegal action by drivers, but it would at least make us more visible when they decide to break the law.

  3. Andres says:

    Thank you for this, Tom. I’d like to attend more SBAB meetings, but don’t have the time.

  4. Kirk from Ballard says:

    WOW, finally! I love the news about the Ballard Bridge, as I ride it daily. Really, widening the sidewalks is a no brainer. The bascule portion (I know this term since they have been painting it for over 8 months now) doesn’t need to be widened. They just need to blow off the outside concrete railing on the stationary structure and cantilever out a wider portion. Hopefully they can complete the project correctly, and make an underpass connetion at West Emmerson with both 15th Ave W and the new Ship Canal Trail.
    PLEASE don’t tell Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel or Ballard Oil or the Ballard CofC “Ballard Business Appelants” about this. They will sue to stop progress.
    One more thing concerning the Ballard Bridge. I just noticed today the removed the Yield to Bikes signage. WTF? Time for an email to SDOT….

  5. Rodney Dwyer says:

    For the Ballard Bridge, I think it is totally unsafe for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. I recommend we get rid of one like of vehicle traffic. That space would then be used to create bike lanes on both sides of the road. To control traffic the middle lane could be converted into a reversible lane to go with the flow of traffic. It should be low cost.

    • Rodney Dwyer says:

      Sorry about the type-o Meant “get ride of one lane of traffic.”

      • Mondoman says:

        I think the massive traffic backups that would result would so pollute the air on the bridge that any bicyclist trying to use a new bike lane or even the sidewalk would be asphyxiated before making it across the bridge :) See for example even the recent single-lane closures for the painting project.

    • Chris M says:

      I don’t think that is a bad idea in the abstract, but holy shit would the Seattle Times freak out. This would become a huge controversy and potentially piss off lots of people. We would hear nothing but “War on cars” rhetoric for months, even years.

      I say pick our battles wisely. If the money can be found to make everyone happy, then do that. I know money for bicycle infrastructure is tight, but I think finding the money would be easier than trying to convert a lane.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        This is why our separated transportation budgeting system makes no sense. There is an affordable way to improve biking and walking safety and access on the Ballard Bridge: Use the space from one traffic lane for a cycle facility. However, as you note, people would very likely react negatively to that idea (especially freight). So why wouldn’t the budget for a more expensive solution not come from the freight or general roads budget? Why should it all come from the bike budget? Not building it where it makes sense is due to concerns from other road users, so the burden of funding it should not just be on the massively underfunded “bicycle program.”

        In reality, I’m guessing this is something the city would seek a grant for. But the point remains.

  6. Rodney Dwyer says:

    Get rid not ride

  7. Mike says:

    Hopefully they are also looking at how to raise the railing. When I’m on my bike, my center of gravity is about even with the top of the railing. I’m always afraid that one wrong move on the bridge will send me into the water.

    • Kirk from Ballard says:

      Maybe they should order the railings right now. Lack of railings is what is delaying the Thomas Street overpass…..

  8. PSF says:

    Questions I’d like to see answered by SBAB:

    What is the timeline for connecting W Galer ST in Magnolia with W Marina Pl down by the Elliot Bay marina?

    What is the timeline for completing the Chief Sealth Trail between S Myrtle Pl and S Webster St? The sharrows through the Holly Park neighborhood really don’t work.

  9. Rick Peterson says:

    Maybe even removing one of the 4 vehicle lanes to make room for bike lanes on both sides of the bridge deck, then making one of the remaining 3 lanes a reversible lanes during certain times of that day might work as a temp solution. Is something like this being considered?

  10. Darren says:

    The painting project probably won’t be finished until 2018, so let’s not get our hopes up about a solution to the bridge itself…

    • Mondoman says:

      Yep! Burnt out lights on the bridge have been a problem for years; rather than getting better, I noticed that in recent months they’ve taken to removing the actual light poles on the west side of the bridge.

  11. Newsie says:

    PSF, I contacted the city on your question about the Magnolia connection, and was told there hasn’t been any evaluation or development work to look at feasibility, costs, etc. I was told to provide feedback via the Bike Master Plan survey. Not the answer I was hoping for!

  12. AS says:

    I would be very surprised if the structure could not support widening the sidewalks. The pavement could be lightened and older structures often have reserve capacity. The more complicated part of the solution is the historic nature of the bridge and the environmental concerns. On the positive side, all of these challenges were overcome when they added first curb barriers and then fencing to the Aurora Bridge.
    My biggest concern is that they’d better hurry up. The best time to do the construction is when they are already working on the bridge and all the environmental permits are in place to do so. Unfortunately, design of the seismic retrofit of the Ballard Bridge is 90% complete, which is not a good point in time to add complexity, but in my opinion, better than removing a vehicle lane or doing nothing.

  13. anonymous says:

    I was reading more about this study at http://www.abam.com/blog/2012/07/improving-the-ballard-bridge-for-non-motorists. Hope this project finds some resolution… I deliberately go out of my way not to cross this bridge on my bicycle.

  14. Kirk says:

    Just looking back. Two years later, and still nothing has been done to improve the Ballard Bridge. Not one thing.

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