Mayor McGinn and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen will announce safety improvements to the Burke-Gilman Missing Link in Ballard this afternoon, according to Cascade Bicycle Club. They will be underneath the Ballard Bridge on Shilshole at 2:30 p.m.
For a brief recap: The Missing Link has been planned, designed, approved and funded. However, a group of supposed business interests has sued to stop the trail’s completion at every single opportunity. The trail will be built on city-owned land, and will complete the link from Fred Meyer to the Ballard Locks.
Between dangerous and confusing railroad tracks, poor roadway conditions and fast cars and freight trucks, the Missing Link has been the scene of many crashes and injuries for years. The city budget for 2013-14 will fund an environmental impact statement for the project (which is the latest expensive legal hoop it has been forced to jump through).
UPDATE: The city will make a handful of road tweaks to help deal with some of the most dangerous and uncomfortable parts of the Missing Link while work on the EIS is underway. The biggest of the interim improvements is a painted traffic island and four-way stop at
Shilshole Ballard Ave and 17th Ave NW. Currently, the intersection is dangerous and often difficult to cross on foot or bike (or in a car, for that matter).
The city will also install “advisory bike lanes” on NW 45th St between Fred Meyer and the redesigned intersection at 17th Ave NW. While we don’t yet have the exact details, advisory bike lanes are typically bike lanes that motor vehicles are allowed to drive on. They are rarely used in Seattle, but are common in other places, including England. There is not enough room for two travel lanes and two bike lanes, and people currently choose not to ride in the roadway, instead opting to ride between the dangerous train tracks on the north side of the street.
From the city:
Mayor Mike McGinn, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) officials today announced a series of road safety improvements to streets and intersections in Ballard. They also announced that the City will conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement study for the project to complete the “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard.
“We are eager to complete the Missing Link, and conducting a full EIS is the best way to break the legal log jam on this project,” said McGinn. “We are also moving ahead on safety improvements on the street that can be implemented quickly to help everyone share the road.”
“For over a decade the City has been working to complete the Burke-Gilman Trail. I am confident that with careful planning both bicyclists and freight and industrial traffic will be able to co-exist successfully in Ballard,” said Rasmussen, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.
“The Burke-Gilman Trail is a busy, multi-use trail that provides an important connection to residents and businesses in Ballard. I’m glad to see that the City is moving ahead with its plans to close the Missing Link and with these other safety improvements,” said Davidya Kasperzyk, Founding Board Member of Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The first segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail opened from Gas Works Park in Seattle to Kenmore in 1978. Since then, the City of Seattle has worked to extend the trail westward to Ballard and Golden Gardens. Currently, the trail is not constructed between 11th Avenue NW and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, creating a gap between segments of the trail. City records show there were 45 bicycle crashes that were responded to on Northwest 45th Street between 11th Avenue and Shilshole Avenue NW in a four year period (2008-2011). That location, part of the “Missing Link,” is the highest bicycle collision location in the city.
In 2003 the City Council adopted a plan to close this “Missing Link” along the Shilshole alignment. Since then, opponents of the project have gone to court to impede its construction. In 2008, the City conducted an environmental review that was limited in scope, focusing on the route adopted by the City Council in 2003. At the time the City believed this approach was the best way to get to a positive end result. However, that approach has led to the project being delayed in court for four years.
Earlier this year the City’s Hearing Examiner reversed, in part, her previous affirmation of the SEPA Determination of Non-Significance for the Missing Link Project, and remanded it to the Seattle Department of Transportation to prepare an EIS, limited in scope to traffic hazards in the segment of the project along Shilshole Avenue Northwest, between 17th Avenue NW and Vernon. SDOT has decided to undertake the preparation of a full EIS for the entire project, which the City believes is the most expeditious path to take in the interest of the project. This process will begin in 2013, but will take several more years to reach its conclusion due to the likelihood of further legal appeals over adequacy of any new EIS. A comprehensive EIS is therefore the best approach to expedite the process, by doing the most extensive environmental review, which will be more difficult to challenge legally.
In the meantime there are a number of improvements that need to be made to address safety concerns for bicyclists and pedestrians, as well as vehicular traffic, in the general area where this trail project is proposed. SDOT has prepared specific recommended improvements that will be constructed in 2013 or 2014. These improvements include:
· Advisory bicycle lanes on NW 45th Street and other safety improvements on that section of roadway
· Installation of striping and signage to create a traffic island and a 4-way stop at Ballard Avenue NW and 17th Avenue NW
· Striping and signage at NW 48th Street and Ballard Avenue NW to improve vehicular line of sight and slow speeds.
· Shoulder maintenance and replacement along degraded sections of the shoulder along Shilshole Avenue NW.
· Installation of a curb ramp to allow bicycles access to the sidewalk to queue for the existing bike lane headed north on 24th Avenue NW at the intersection of Shilshole Avenue NW / 24th Avenue NW and NW Market Street. Current conditions provide very limited queuing space for bicycles.
These improvements are independent from the proposed trail project, and are intended to either enhance public safety or provide routine roadway maintenance. The City will coordinate with, and take input from, bicycle and freight stakeholders in the implementation of these and any additional safety projects.
When the court decision to require an EIS was announced, we wrote that the city should consider an interim safety project to keep people safe while we wait for trail construction. Here was our idea:
Stay tuned as we await the announcement. Details from Cascade:
If you’re in town, please join Mayor Mike McGinn, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and Seattle Department of Transportation officials this afternoon underneath the Ballard Bridge, where they will announce significant road safety improvements to the “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The Missing Link section of the Burke-Gilman Trail refers to the area where the trail ends at Ballard’s Fred Meyer and people are left to find their own route to the Chittenden Locks where the trail picks up again. The Missing Link also includes the most dangerous rail road track crossings in the city, on Shilshole Avenue below the Ballard Bridge, which is the cause of numerous bicycle crashes every year.
It is at this location, underneath the Ballard Bridge at 4500 Shilshole Avenue Northwest, where the Mayor and other city officials will announce new road safety improvements, as well as detail the next steps the City will take on the “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard.
Join them Thursday, Dec. 27, at 2:30 p.m.