State will fund UW Burke-Gilman remake, Northgate bike/walk bridge, Eastside bike share + a lot more

The state will fund a Burke-Gilman Trail remake through UW

The state will fund a Burke-Gilman Trail remake through UW. Image from a failed 2014 TIGER grant

Today, the WA House passed the appropriations part of the 16-year transportation package, earmarking money for lots and lots of highways and highway debt.

We here at Seattle Bike Blog are certainly distressed by all the new and expanded highways, but we’re especially concerned by the lack of leadership from any major voice in Olympia to connect highways to sprawling communities, traffic congestion, public health and climate change. The kind of package we would wholeheartedly support — focused on safety, transit (both urban and rural) and road/bridge repairs — was never even discussed.

But in this post we’ll try to put that aside and focus on the roughly six percent of funds that are directed to truly exciting multimodal (bike/walk/transit) projects.

Six percent might sound like a pitiful amount (because it is), but it represents a sevenfold increase in biking and walking funding compared to the previous 16-year transportation package passed in 2005, according to Washington Bikes. Indeed, walk/bike funding managed to forge its own bipartisan path through the legislature and make gains when other elements were being compromised away.

While Seattle Bike Blog typically focuses on biking in major urban centers, WA Bikes has made great strides highlighting to rural or small city legislators how safe streets, biking to school and bicycle tourism are powerful and relatively low-cost investments in their communities.

“No matter where you stand on other elements in the Washington state transportation spending package, one message is clear: we won big for biking and walking projects,” WA Bikes said in their blog post. They also created a handy online form so you can thank your legislators for the bike/walk funds (even if you don’t like all the highway funds).

Wait, so what’s in this for biking?

Passage of the transportation package means the UW will get the funding they need to totally rebuild the Burke-Gilman Trail through campus, the city and Sound Transit will get a $10 million boost for the Northgate walk/bike bridge, the Eastside is getting bike share and more (see below).

The new capital budget also includes $15.6 million over two years for exciting trail projects through various state recreation programs. That’s a lot more than WA Bikes anticipated, according to a blog post this week.

Perhaps in all the recent debates over the transportation package, you’ve lost track of what’s good in it. Here are the walk/bike numbers:

  • Bike/Ped Grant Program ($75M)
  • Bike/Ped Projects ($89M) + millions more that are included in the transit project list
  • Safe Routes to Schools Grant Program ($56M)
  • A commitment that WSDOT direct $86 million in Federal funds it receives in the next 16 years to Safe Routes to School
  • Complete Streets Grant Program ($106M)

And here are some of the specific walk/bike projects in the Puget Sound region (see the full lists in these PDFs: Walk/bike and transit):

    • Bike Share Expansion – Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah ($5.5M)
    • Northgate Transit Center Pedestrian Bridge ($10M)
    • Mountains to Sound Greenway in Bellevue ($14M)
    • SR 520 Trail Grade Separation at 40th Street in Redmond ($10.7M)
    • SR 520 Regional Bike Path & Trail in Bellevue ($2.8M)
    • Steel Lake Park to Downtown Trail in Federal Way ($300K)
    • Burke-Gilman Trail Transit Access, Safety, and Efficiency Improvements at UW ($16M)
    • City of Milton Trail Head/Interurban Trail ($405K)
    • City of Pacific – Interurban Trail ($1.85M)
    • Guemes Channel Trail, Trestle – Park and Ride Trail and Washington Park to Ferry Terminal Trail in Anacortes ($4.5M)
    • NE 52nd Street Boulevard – Cross Kirkland Corridor ($1.09M)
    • Seattle Waterfront Loop Feasibility Study ($500K)

And here are the trail projects included in the two-year capital budget (from WA Bikes):

Capital-Budget-Trails-2015-17

520 trail connections: Now funded.

520 trail connections: Now funded.

And, of course, the exciting bike/walk connections pasted onto the 520 Bridge replacement and expansion project are now funded as part of that $4.47 billion megaproject (it had been short about $1.6 billion for Seattle-side work).

That means there is now funding to complete a trail from Roanoke Park in North Capitol Hill/Eastlake all the way to the Eastside. There is also funding for a new crossing of the Ship Canal near the Montlake Bridge to improve the biking and walking connection between Montlake, UW Station and the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Oh, and Sound Transit got the authority it needs to put an ST3 measure on the ballot in 2016, a Presidential election year that gives an ambitious light rail vote a much better chance of passing.

The last silver lining for this package is that it is paid for mostly through a gas tax increase. The cost of gas is one of the biggest factors in people’s decisions about whether they will drive or find a different way to get around, so a gas tax is a good thing on its own. I’m certainly not trying to argue that this offsets the induced demand and new car trips created by expanded and new highways or that the gas tax will actually be enough to truly offset the damage highways cause to communities, the environment and public health. But it’s a little extra squirt of mustard on that shit sandwich.

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34 Responses to State will fund UW Burke-Gilman remake, Northgate bike/walk bridge, Eastside bike share + a lot more

  1. ronp says:

    Thanks for the summary. A seven fold increase is an accomplishment! Advocacy and lobbying can make a difference. Still much more progress to be made!

  2. PSJ says:

    Tom, thanks for injecting a bit of levity and positivity (is that a word?) into the news. Yes, the transportation package was mostly created by dinosaurs in a reaction to the perceived needs of last century, but that doesn’t mean that it is completely devoid of redeeming qualities. You expressed it perfectly; and I am very much looking forward to the Northgate bridge and light rail.

    Thanks for doing all you do!

  3. Josh says:

    The gas tax is good news for the environment, but the huge news, in my opinion, is that we’re closing so many gaps in a very-discontinuous bike/ped network.

    In far too many cases, what drives people into a car is simply the impossibility of completing a relatively-short trip by bike.

    Even in cities where biking would be faster than driving, even in poor areas where people would love to save a gallon of gas, far too much of our current infrastructure tells people that driving is the only way to get there.

    A trail here, a bridge there, a Safe Routes to School project to improve crosswalks and sidewalks, a Complete Streets makeover of a key barrier… every little step helps make something other than a car a plausible alternative.

  4. Al Dimond says:

    Does anyone know where to find more info on these projects? I’m curious about the Pacific and Milton Interurban Trail projects… I’d like to be optimistic, but at today’s prices I’m not sure $2m closes that gap in the Interurban (given the very steep ridge between the Pacific trailhead and where it picks up at 114th Ave E in Milton). And, of course, the Fife gap is the really bad one…

    • Josh says:

      The current work in Pacific is to extend the Trail south to hook up with Sumner, not to get up the hill.

      • Al Dimond says:

        I guess that was a different interurban branch…

        I’d guess $1.85 doesn’t get the trail all the way to Sumner unless property acquisition and design are already finished, or most of the funding is local, or it’s just connecting to the existing trail to Sumner.

        And it probably means the $405k “City of Milton Trailhead” is just a trailhead. That seems like a lot of money for a trailhead, but probably not enough to close any significant gaps.

      • Josh says:

        Most right of way in Pacific has already been acquired, yes. Construction will be tricky and expensive in spots due to wetlands. This won’t complete the connection, but it will be a useful extension and there are more projects to come.

        Sumner has run its trail north up to Stewart Road, the Interurban will tie in there. But nobody has the money yet to replace that narrow bridge over the White River.

  5. Harrison Davignon says:

    This is huge progress from the 1 percent of founding bicycle riding had before. I would like to see 20 percent of the transportation package devoted to bicycle infrastructure, but 6 percent is progress. Widening roads will make things worse. We need to fix our crumbling roads and find ways to get people out places quickly and practically without there cars, if we want to reduce traffic congestion and make roads safer. One idea of mine is to get volunteers and reclaimed materials and make uuuuu shaped bike racks at campsites and hiking trailheads. Start out at hiking trails and campsites close to towns and cities, like mount si and and tiger and cougar mountain. If that is successful go from there.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      That would be nice but would you trust leaving your bike at a trail head? Those are notorious locations for prowlers and, probably in this case, bike theives.

      • asdf2 says:

        All in all, it is not worth a thief’s time to drive out to trailhead looking for bikes. Someone who is out to steal bikes would get far more loot for their time by hitting obviously urban places, such as downtown or the U-district.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Theft is a challenge everywhere. While I wouldn’t be more scared about locking up at a trailhead than, say, downtown Seattle, having secure bike parking at trailheads would at least give you a better option than trying to hide your ride in some bushes or locking to a tree. I like the idea!

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  7. Sally says:

    I am not very impressed with that list. It seems like lots of low value projects (bike share on the Eastside) and over engineered projects (grade separation at 520 and 40th NE and possibly the Burke and Pend Oreille).

    • Al Dimond says:

      A few of those are pretty important connectors, though. Unfortunately a lot of high-profile important stuff is not shovel-ready for a variety of reasons. When they are, the cities and counties will ask the legislature for help.

      • Josh says:

        The way grant funding works these days, projects usually have to move in phases. Feasibility study, preliminary design, shovel-ready design, then finally construction funding.

        It’s a cumbersome process, but it’s how we’re supposed to be able to avoid new “freeway to nowhere” projects. There’s plenty of opportunity to evaluate viability, integration into regional networks and priorities, etc.

        For example, check out
        http://www.psrc.org/assets/4230/46_Milton_-_EMPS_Interurban_Trail_Regional_Missing_Links.pdf

        That’s from 2010, and not all parts of the proposal have been funded yet, other parts got funding, had delays, lost funding, and need to get re-funded. But it’s the sort of long-term planning that has to go on before you have a shovel-ready project that can get construction funding.

      • Al Dimond says:

        Yeah, that’s the process. Now one might argue that applying essentially the same long process to justify bike paths as highways that cost 100 times as much, when we know our bike network is grossly deficient, is completely insane. But one might argue anything, really. One might argue that allowing every jackass living next to a proposed bike path they don’t like to go on a lawsuit spree using laws designed to protect neighborhoods literally being ripped in half by freeways is completely insane, too. But one, again, might argue anything.

        Anyway the whole thing would be much less cumbersome if our state legislature, one of the stupidest, pettiest, and most irresponsible groups of humans ever to convene (including the US Congress), did not insert itself as the arbiter for every local project by making it impossible for the agencies that do the work to raise the money they need. Through our representatives’ brave work our society has rendered itself incapable of accomplishing anything through government for a reasonable amount of money and in a reasonable amount of time.

      • Josh says:

        That’s even more true for streets than it is for bike facilities.

        The mechanisms for funding local street maintenance are so thoroughly broken in Washington that many jurisdictions have established formal plans to define which paved streets will be allowed to deteriorate back to gravel.

        Bike facilities can at least last for generations without serious maintenance if they’re built well initially — my commute starts on a section of the Interurban that hasn’t seen fresh asphalt since it opened nearly 40 years ago. Let a street go for that long and it will probably need complete reconstruction, not just maintenance.

        Starting with the Good Roads Movement, our parents and grandparents paid to pave an amazing street network that our children won’t inherit from us.

  8. ak says:

    Wait, does that Foothills trail line-item mean we’ll finally connect Enumclaw and Buckley over the White River and fill in the gap in South Prairie!!! I won’t get my hopes up but this could be huge. The distances by bike to and from the towns aren’t that far it’s just never been safe getting onto a 45mph highway with dump trucks and the like.

    • Josh says:

      The Foothills National Recreation Trail (FT) Final Phase is the final segment needed to complete the 19 mile multi-use regional trail through the Puyallup Valley in Pierce County. This project will construct the remaining 2.3 miles of the trail, which begins in the Town of South Prairie and extend east toward Buckley. As a 12′ wide pervious asphalt trail with a companion 5′ wide equestrian path, the trail accommodates walking, hiking, biking and equestrian uses. The trail is sited on a railroad right-of-way that winds through scenic countryside and farmland offering views of Mt Rainier and the Cascade foothills. The FT is the spine of the Pierce County trail network serving as a significant connector between urban and rural cities and providing recreation opportunities for thousands. Future connections include: Link north to King County’s Interurban Trail Link east to King County’s Enumclaw Foothills Trail Link southeast to Mt Rainier National Park Link northwest to Puyallup’s Riverwalk Trail Link southwest to the Cross County Commuter Corridor to Tacoma The FT enjoys tremendous public support which is headed by the Foothills Rails-to-Trails Coalition, a 1000+ member nonprofit that provides valuable services such as a bike safety patrol, volunteer maintenance crews, and fundraising campaigns. The FT is listed in the Regional Trails Plan of the County’s 2014 PROS Plan, the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation 2040 Plan, and the Non-motorized Transportation Plan of Pierce County’s Comprehensive Plan.

      RCO Project Number: 14-1442

      http://wildliferecreation.org/our-campaigns/wwrp-projects/projects/Foothills_National_RecreationTrail_Final_Phase

      • Eli says:

        This is going to be amazing to be able to bike nearly 50 miles to Enumclaw from Tukwila (15 minute bus trip from downtown) almost entirely on trails and take the Metro bus back to Seattle.

        If it ever reaches Mt. Rainier, I think there is going to be a new bike camping destination in our city.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Hell yeah! only 22 (uphill) miles from Buckley to Ipsut Creek Campground (40 miles from Sumner Station) via the car-free Carbon River Road… Sounds like a perfect transit-bike camping adventure.

        In fact, this is next on my list!

      • Josh says:

        Regional connectivity definitely improves the viability of grant proposals. The closer these trails are to connecting, the more attractive the remaining gaps are for future funding.

        With any luck (and maybe more lobbying), the new trail segments will also increase pressure to maintain existing trails — the south end of the existing Interurban will feel even worse when there’s fresh pavement to the south.

  9. AW says:

    Are there any more specific details on the 520 trail through Bellevue ? Is this money to build a section of trail that links the two disconnected parts of the 520 trail ? That is the new section on the west side that leads up to the bridge and the older section that goes to Redmond. There is absolutely no truly safe way to get between them especially considering the eastside drivers.

    • Al Dimond says:

      It’s connecting the two parts of the trail with on-street bike lanes. Here’s Bellevue’s page on the project. I think a proper trail, at this point, would have required acquiring a lot of land, but what’s proposed won’t attract a ton of people that weren’t riding already.

      As of a couple years ago I think they were planning a turn box for the left from Northup to 24th, but that doesn’t seem to be in the plan anymore — in fact, by not having a far-side crosswalk they’re screwing anyone that doesn’t want to make a vehicular left there. Earlier plans looked like a well thought-out on-street connection that would work for a somewhat wider range of users, but this plan is basically bog-standard eastside arterial bike lane design.

      • AW says:

        Thank you for the link Al ! Not perfect but this will be a vast improvement.

      • Al Dimond says:

        A huge improvement, certainly, for people like me that are already comfortable in the street. Perhaps a lot of the fast-moving folk I’ve seen on the 520 Trail east of 405 fit the bill. But on the new trail sections west of Bellevue Way, and on the CKC, I’ve seen a lot of people out walking. These trails are quieter and connect directly to residential neighborhoods, and it hasn’t taken long for them to be appreciated by a much wider group of people. A 520 Trail continuation that could be attractive to this wider audience despite following Northup (which may have been inevitable, but I don’t know the history) would need to make the turns easier; it would probably need to eliminate all “merges” with car traffic, or at least make them unnecessary.

        The really great potential of both the ERC and Northup, though, is across as much as along them. Land-use divisions in this area tend to go in bands, with commercial areas along major roads at lower elevation and homes up on the hill. Fremont, for one example, is sort of similar, with the office park near the water, retail a few blocks up, and housing above that. But in Fremont it’s easy to cross the bands. In this area it’s really hard. I’m not going to claim this area is primed to be the next Fremont (there are some pretty big differences!), but making it easier to cross the bands will finally put all this stuff that’s actually pretty close together in the same neighborhood: homes, schools, offices, restaurants and retail, and a fair amount of transit service. Build the ERC, build walkways through the parking lots on either side, and… well… it won’t be as good as a public street network but it could be something. The area around the BGT and Children’s Hospital is similar — the BGT has been around for a few decades but a lot of those local connections are just being built… and, of course, Sand Point Way’s pedestrian conditions are an embarrassment. A more sustainable future depends on turning Northup and Sand Point Way into pedestrian anchors, not the barriers they are now.

  10. PW says:

    With all of the connections around 520, it’s disappointing that Madison Park managed to kill the bike/pedestrian connector from 520 to the 37th Ave E street end. A short pedestrian connector would improve accessibility and safety for those who walk and bike along the lake. Instead of scaling Madison street and riding through the arboretum, it would provide a great shortcut both to UW and to the East Side for those who come up Lake Washington and McGilvra. Let’s get this back on our collective radar.

    • JS says:

      My recollection (which could easily be wrong) is there were Coast Guard issues with that proposal, but the last time I heard talk was quite some time ago, so as I said, I could be incorrect.

    • Godot says:

      +1 @PW
      Further, more than a shortcut, the connector would continue the Lake Washington Boulevard experience from Seward Park Avenue—rather than being to a dead end street end. Maybe use another adjacent street end.
      Are we a cosmopoliton city or Balkanized feudal neighborhoods? The comment (and the news article) are inherently about making more livable cities and counties in our state.
      The 37th Ave connector would add a relatively low-cost, world-class functionality. Many, many more people than of Madison Park would benefit. Importantly, these people would be on foot or bicycles, not in cars.

      Not dissimilarly in Balkan sentiment, regarding the 520 pedestrian-cyclist connection past Hunts Point, Medina, the effect for all the world is of a cattle chute. Though not so narrow, it has impressively tall sides—both sides. All that’s needed to become complete is bas-reliefs in the concrete, in Fraktur or Gothic typeface, of such as “Arbeit macht frei”. Perhaps update with another, something like “Commuting by automobile gives us freedom”.

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