City will repair bumpy sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail this week

Bumps like these caused by tree roots grow and grow until they turn from annoyance to hazard.

Bumps like these caused by tree roots grow and grow until they turn from annoyance to hazard.

Seattle’s section of the Burke-Gilman Trail is incredibly busy, but it also has some old sections that are plagued with bumps from tree roots or damage from small landslides.

Some small bumps aren’t a big deal, but sometimes they turn into big gaps or elevated tree root humps that could potentially cause a fall. The Burke-Gilman is the hardest working bike route in the region, moving a lot of people on very old trail surface. It needs to be safe for people of all levels of bike experience and at all levels of daylight, since the trail has no lighting.

The good news is that the Parks Department and SDOT are teaming up to make a bunch of repairs to the trail this week. Be ready for small delays getting through work sites spread out from Ballard to NE 145th Street.

The trail really needs a full rebuild, including a tougher base level that is resistant to tree roots. There are no current funding plans for such a major project. In lieu of a major project, the city needs to find a way to get on top of these patch repairs quickly and probably more regularly.

More details on the trail work, from SDOT:

A contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation will grind and patch small areas of pavement on the Burke Gilman Trail starting tomorrow, June 16, through Friday, June 19.

The trail will not be closed, just reduced in width near the work areas, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.

The crews will work on the trail from Northeast 145th Street to the Ballard Locks.

Please use extra caution when near the work areas.

This is a joint project of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

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24 Responses to City will repair bumpy sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail this week

  1. Brian Bothomley says:

    When I read that message from SDOT and saw “from Northeast 145th Street to the Ballard Locks.” I immediately thought… “hmm how quickly could that contractor lay down an asphalt trail from Fred Meyer’s to the Locks?”.
    Well I am a dreamer, but just imagine that!

  2. Matt says:

    Someone alert Cliff Mass…hoping he finally writes a more positive story about cycling in this city.

    • KCR says:

      I admire your positive outlook in life and your optimism that Cliff Mass would write a more positive story about cycling in the city :).

      • Matt says:

        One can only hope. I think he has the best intentions and I am as critical as anyone when it comes to our bike infrastructure decisions. I just think sometimes we all get a little too caught up in the minor issues of our daily commute instead of looking at the larger picture.

  3. Josh says:

    Kudos to the city for fitting the repair work around continued use, rather than just closing the Trail. Other local agencies could take a clue…

  4. Stuart Strand says:

    Great news that Seattle is following up on the BGT improvements done earlier this year. But when is the trail underpass at the UW light rail station crossing going to open to bicyclists? The car drivers have been using their roadway underpass for months! Why not bikers?

    • Alper says:

      The underpass has a nice wide(-ish) walkway alongside the street with a ramp on the west side… I’m surprised more people don’t use it.

  5. ZeGerman says:

    If the tree root grinding method proposed here is similar to what they recently did in other sections of the BGT near UW, don’t get excited for a positive outcome. The aftermath of the crude grinding leaves surface irregularities that are just as bad as the tree roots themselves.

    • Southeasterner says:

      I was going to say something very similar about the Elliot Bay trail. They supposedly ground down a bunch of tree root bumps but you can hardly tell the difference.

      • rob_kp says:

        Thirded. It takes off the sharp ridge at the top but still leaves a bone rattling bump.

    • PSJ says:

      Well, in the spirit of “the perfect is not the enemy of the good” – I prefer to have pavement grinding rather than nothing; and “close to nothing” is the budget that we have for trail maintenance. If we want better trails, I suggest we advocate for funding instead of complaining about the nature of the benefits we do receive.

      I rode the Elliott Bay trail last weekend and found the grinding to be a marked improvement. YMMV.

      • ZeGerman says:

        Of course you raise some agreeable points. We should (and do!) advocate for additional funding. That said, it is also acceptable to voice displeasure with what most would consider to be a shoddy “solution”.

      • Joseph says:

        Agreed. I find the BGT results post-grinding at UW to be *far* better than pre-grinding. 2-3 inch ridges enough to threaten loss of control, as well as being extremely uncomfortable, are replaced with rough but level surface.

    • ronp says:

      I keep thinking they should put some sort of tar over the ground down bumps to smooth them out. Grinding does help, but I wish they could do a better job.

    • Carolyn says:

      I have to agree that the grinding method of repair is definitely an improvement over the current condition of the bumps. I’ve also been on the sections of trails in the area where this has been done; it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely better! I’m excited to ride the BGT later today and hoping to hit some sections that have already been repaired.

  6. Joseph says:

    They say “grind and patch” so I’m hoping the result will be smooth like the fixes at Matthews Beach. Hoping.

  7. Glenn says:

    The Green Lake path was paved in the early 1990’s. A good base was laid down and root barriers put in place. The cost was about $1 million per mile. Then there was an earthquake in 2001 that separated the trail in two places that I know of. Those were repaired but the trail seems in excellent shape today. I don’t know what the city is spending on the Burke but the money spent of the Green Lake path was well spent.

  8. stardent says:

    It seems to me that the most effective method would be to cut a narrow trench a foot deep along the side to cut off the root and then grind the surface. Otherwise we have the same problem coming back and requiring constant maintenance. I don’t think cutting off a few roots would harm the trees either.

  9. Harrison Davignon says:

    That is good news. That trial can get crowded and if one cyclist falls down due to a awkward bump, a lot more could fallow and make a nasty pile up. It would be nice to have a smooth trial and recycled materials might save money. Please do not hurt any trees. Urban trees are one of the many things make our state a beautiful and unique.

  10. Joseph says:

    Very disappointed. Perhaps I misunderstood their schedule?

    I rode the BGT from Wayne Golf Course to Montlake twice today, once at 1:30-2:30pm, once at 6:30-7:30. I saw absolutely no evidence of any work being done either time, nor of construction equipment.

    I hoped to see something at the embarrassing city border with Lake Forest Park, but nothing.

    Then I hoped to see something between NE 70 and NE 65 where there are some outrageous bumps. Still nothing.

    Okay, perhaps they didn’t get that far north yet… what about approaching 40th NE? Still nothing.

    Perhaps their contractor borrowed Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak?

    Am I missing something?

    • Carolyn says:

      Shoot! I was hoping to see some finished work this week as well! I’ll be out there later today to see if anything’s happened there since your rides.

      • Law Abider says:

        I can confirm that as of yesterday afternoon, the work had begun in the Ballard industrial stretch up to about the Fremont Canal Park.

  11. Carolyn says:

    I emailed the SDOT office to ask about the schedule of BGT repairs, and got a prompt reply:

    “The grinding work on the Burke Gilman Trail will continue this week. The crews will start at the Fremont Bridge and go up to NE 145th st which is the limits of The City of Seattle’s ownership. King County maintains the section From 145th to Logboom Park.”

    • Joseph says:

      Thanks! Very happy to hear the “continue this week” part. It’s quite clear they haven’t had much impact yet on the part between UW and Lake Forest Park.

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