Sound Transit will finally* open that awesome bike/walk bridge over Montlake Blvd Wednesday

UPDATE 7/22: It’s open!

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Concept art. You can bike the real thing Wednesday.

The core structure over Montlake Boulevard was built years ago, but the unfinished bike/walk bridge connecting the Montlake Bridge and the upcoming UW Station to the Burke-Gilman Trail has taunted people trying to navigate the traffic-clogged streets and ever-changing detours in the area.

That ends tomorrow.

Sound Transit will cut the ribbon on the bridge, opening the final major piece of the Montlake Triangle remake ahead of the anticipated early 2016 opening of the new light rail station next to Husky Stadium.

So if you want to be one of the first people in history to bike on the bridge, get to the UW side of the bridge at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a ride to the under-construction UW Station. Details from Sound Transit:

Please join Sound Transit, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the University of Washington as we celebrate the completion of the Montlake Triangle Project. We’ll cut the ribbon on the new pedestrian/bicyclist bridge that offers a direct connection between the new light rail station near Husky Stadium, the UW campus and the popular Burke-Gilman trail.

The new bridge touches down on the reconfigured Montlake Triangle area with new direct connections to campus and the bike trail completely separated from car traffic. With these new improvements, those on foot or bike can go straight from campus to the light rail station or Husky Stadium without crossing busy Montlake Boulevard. A great partnership between WSDOT, Sound Transit and UW to improve bike and pedestrian access through this busy area led to the project’s success.

IMG_2154The bridge connects to the newly redesigned Rainier Vista public space and trail connection on UW campus. If you haven’t already checked this out, you’re in for a surprise. With the addition of the bridge, biking and walking in the area will be essentially unrecognizable from just a few years ago.

* And though I say “finally,” Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray reminds me that this opening is actually nearly a year ahead of schedule. It just feels like forever.

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39 Responses to Sound Transit will finally* open that awesome bike/walk bridge over Montlake Blvd Wednesday

  1. Marge Evans says:

    maybe Sound Transit should have dug the tunnel in Seattle instead of the S.T.P.

  2. Southeasterner says:

    Just in time to connect to the UW portion of the Burke Gilman Trail that will be undergoing extensive construction over the next 2 years? I still don’t understand what all the detours were for over the past 2 years if they weren’t working on the trail widening. And if it was closed for utility work or something else why didn’t they do both at the same time?

    • Dave Parsons says:

      Allow me to explain. The trail closures and re-routing of thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians was so that the UW can have a pretty promenade stretching from the Drumheller Fountain to the view of Mount Rainer. That’s it. The BGT was slightly widened, but that small improvement has been offset by terrible right angle connections to the overpass over Pacific St. Perhaps the road was widened? Nope. It was entirely to improve the view.

      And now we can look forward to the trail closing again for I’m sure a year or more. At least this time the actual trail will be improved. We hope.

      • SLOWING!!! says:

        Getting from Montlake Bridge to Burke Gilman Trail prior to the new promenade: 2 major at-grade crossings with vehicles (Montlake and Pacific Place).

        Getting from Montlake Bridge to Burke Gilman trail after the bridge opens tomorrow: zero at-grade crossings with vehicles.

        Just traveling along the trail? The new construction means light rail passengers heading to the UW campus go over you instead of in front of you.

      • SLOWING!!! says:

        Okay, there’s still one parking lot entrance to the stadium. Still a big reduction in at-grade crossings.

      • bill says:

        Agreed, the connection to the new promenade sucks for bicyclists. But the bridge is going to carry heavy pedestrian traffic once the Link station opens. As much as I would like to ride through there without slowing, it would not be safe. Bikes coming off the trail have be slowed. We have to live with the planners’ inability to imagine separated bike and pedestrian paths.

      • asdf2 says:

        If you look closely, the road underneath the bridge was widened. The new road features a sidewalk on both sides (the old road had a sidewalk on just one side), and also enough layover space for 5 buses (the old road had layover room for just one). Metro is planning on making heavy use of these new layover spaces on bus routes that connect people with the station.

    • Rob Norheim says:

      The Rainier Vista work is not just a pretty promenande, it is a safety improvement that provides grade separation for pedestrians coming from the new light rail station so they don’t have to cross Pacific Way and the BGT.

      My understanding is that the UW intended to do the trail widening between Rainier Vista and 15th Ave NE at the same time as the work on the Vista, but that was delayed because bids came in over budget. This is the only segment of the widening that the UW has had funding for. Then it has been delayed further because the UW has decided to also build a new biology building in the area where the greenhouses are now (http://www.biology.washington.edu/life-sciences-complex). Depending on the design they pick, the new building may push the trail closer to Pacific, so there was no point in doing the trail work until the new building is decided. The funding for widening the rest of the trail through campus is in the Transportation bill that just passed the legislature, but it is now held hostage pending Gov. Inslee’s possible use of an Executive Order to implement a carbon tax, which would trigger a poison pill in the budget to eliminate funding for non-highway projects such as the BGT.

  3. Andrew Squirrel says:

    Sorry everyone, I might have been the first to ride across the bridge last week.
    Don’t tell mom and dad

  4. Thanks for posting this … it’s quite exciting for me. I was trying to understand the steel work from a distance and hoped it would provide a stoplightless crossing of Montlake Blvd and indeed it is. Congrats, kudos and big Thanks to UW, Sound Transit and WSDOT.

  5. William Wilcock says:

    “And though I say “finally,” Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray reminds me that this opening is actually nearly a year ahead of schedule. It just feels like forever.”

    I am awfully glad that Light Rail has made it to the UW but it has been “forever”. Sound Transit originally planned/promised to provide Light Rail to the U District by 2006 so they are opening 10 years late!

    Bruce Gray need only to visit Wikipedia for a short refresher on the history of Light Link Rail (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Link_Light_Rail)

  6. Jean says:

    How does a cyclists or many cyclists coming down new ramp abaoud all the STC folks walking to hospital. Looks like crazy bad intersection for bikes and pass. Can you explain how north riding cyclists can avoid the 100s of peds going to hospital area? Shouldn’t r been separated there at foot of new ramp.

    • Mark says:

      There will always be cross traffic at the intersection but most of the people going to the hospital will cross at grade where bicyclist can continue to the ramp and ride up and over Montlake and catch the BGTrail. Pedestrians will almost always take the shortlist path bicyclist will tend to want to keep moving rather than stop for the light. Crossing Pacific Place and up to campus is a breeze it is a simple loop to BGTrail. Enjoy compared to what was there before it is great.

  7. Capitol Hillian says:

    It looks great. I hope it works great too!

    One thing we know needs to be fixed is the bike parking at the Sound Transit station. If you’re reading these comments Bruce, please know that the “coat hanger” racks are not considered appropriate by modern standards.

    • Al Dimond says:

      What’s wrong with coat-hanger racks? I guess staples are better, but coat-hangers provide adequate locking points and balance, without being wheel-benders. They may not work for certain kinds of cargo bikes but that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the huge amount of space-efficient bike parking any mass cycling culture demands.

      • William Wilcock says:

        They do not work very well for recumbents either

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Even with just a normal bike + kid seat , or anything on your rear rack, they don’t work. They suck for folding bikes. They are better than wheelbenders, but that’s a pretty low bar. Why aim low if we’re installing new bike parking?

      • Josh says:

        At the utilitarian end of the spectrum, coat hanger racks don’t work with plain old Wald steel baskets, or a milk crate on top of a rear rack, or anything else that makes the rear of the bike wider than the spacing of the coat hangers. (I know of one workplace that cut off every other hanger to make one of these racks work with blue collar commuter bikes, but that’s a kludge for people who already have the rack and need to make it work. Why spec that sort of rack on a new project, ever?)

    • asdf2 says:

      The rail station also desperately needs a Pronto station. I can only hope it will happen, although with the general incompetence they’ve had in picking station locations so far, I’m not holding my breath.

      • William Wilcock says:

        Agreed. I am not sure how the UW plans to help its employees get from the stations(s) to campus some of which is quite a way away but I suspect that if Pronto bikes were available at the station and at good locations elsewhere on the UW campus, there would be high demand.

  8. Harrison Davignon says:

    Coat rack bike racks do suck unless you have a cable or chain lock. With u locks they really suck. I’m glad to see Were finally expanding and becoming a more versatile community. We should have uuuu shaped bike racks and staple ones. Or the space saving ones I saw at green river college in olympia, were they have sturdy metal arm that swings out to lock you bike to and then folds back when done. Hopefully jay inslee will have common sense. It is ridiculous that congress made a bill that would mostly found new and wider highways, no founding for existing roads and highways, 6 percent of the budget to either clean fuels or alternative transportation. If jay inslee strips funding for alternative transportation, the extra tail pipe emissions could make pollution much worse and the clean fuels will do nothing but waste money and increase injuries and deaths through accidents and toxic air exposure. Please let inslee have common sense and make more of these type transportation projects a reality and make our community a better place to live.

  9. Harrison Davignon says:

    Ps on a side note would anyone be willing to join me in a mission of mine? To install bike racks at hiking trial heads and camp sites close town and work our way out. I’m trying find a organization to sponsor this idea and volunteers.

  10. Brian T says:

    First: Awesome! This has been a long time coming and will be great to have it. I’d love to have a facility like this on my commute.
    Second: I continue to be amazed at how critical people are of the grave indignity of having to slow their bike a bit to make a turn or to ride in a mixed pedestrian/bike zone. There is a rich parallel between comments like that to those found in the Seattle Times complaining about bikes getting in the way of their cars and bike lanes interfering with how fast they can drive.* Having totally separated facilities for every mode would probably be more efficient for throughput. But that requires more space than is often available; and, more important, not every facility is about throughput. Slow down, look at the view, say hello to a person, appreciate not having to worry about a car smashing into you. Don’t be so grumpy about people slowing you down and adding ten seconds to your commute time. That’s ten more seconds you get to be on your bike!
    *I concede that the comments on this site mercifully don’t descend into the cesspool of homicidal vitriol one often encounters in the Times. We seem to stop at grumpy, and sometimes unfair, criticism.

    • Josh says:

      I suspect much of the complaining is because often, the only reason there isn’t room to provide safe bike and pedestrian facilities is that the space has been taken over by cars and car storage.

      Or, when there is room for safe facilities, some designer with no cycling expertise thinks a more hazardous design looks better, and safety gets pushed to the back of the bus.

    • kommish says:

      Agreed. I would 100% rather be on a slow bike ride in “people traffic” than be in my car going any speed.

    • Al Dimond says:

      The problem with Rainier Vista is that the particular “mixing spaces” cause unnecessary conflict along the entire land-bridge and force people biking into awkward paths that not only slow us down (which is fine) but also limit our sight lines and constrain our movement (not so fine — it prevents us from looking ahead and planning a smooth course through space that limits conflict).

      The conceit behind the mistaken design of Rainier Vista appears to be that, by design alone, it can be turned into a public square or quad regardless of context. In fact, a true public square or quad is defined by its surroundings, not its design. Humbler spaces elsewhere on campus will continue to surpass Rainier Vista in this function because they provide front-door access to a variety of academic buildings. Considering its wider location, Rainier Vista could serve part of the connective function of a quad if it created direct walking paths across its major axis (between, say, the buildings just west of it and the buildings just across Mason Road). The previous design blocked these paths to incorporate a parking ramp; this design blocks them for no particular reason.

      I criticize the Rainier Vista design for cycling not because I want to blow through it at top speed, but because I want to be able to travel through it smoothly, because that allows me to anticipate others’ movements and limit conflict. I criticize it as a “shared” public space not because I hate “shared” public spaces, but because its design represents many misunderstandings of public spaces typical in the northwest. Rainier Vista will at least not fail completely and sit empty almost all the time, as so many ill-conceived plazas here do, but only because it serves an important transportation function. So I think it’s reasonable to expect it to be designed well for that.

      • Brian T says:

        That’s a fair assessment. I went through the Vista part of this project on a run a couple of weeks ago and found myself wondering how much use it would actually get as a public space, given its isolated location and surroundings. I could maybe see it as a gathering space related to the stadium, but other than that, I predict it will be little used. (I’m not a UW alum, though, and have no sense of context for how that space was used previously.)
        Viewed simply as transportation infrastructure, I think your critique is sound. And if the predictions of light use as a gathering space bear out, then its deficiencies in that regard will seem like a disappointment. Not a disappointment quite on the same scale, however, of that brand-spanking new bridge they opened last year with a protected sidewalk that could easily have been a protected bike lane instead of a stripe of paint on the car side of the concrete wall protecting the pedestrians. There were posts about that here, but I’m too lazy to look back for the details.

      • Brian T says:

        South Park Bridge — June last year. I’d post the link if my comment posting skills weren’t so remedial.

      • ODB says:

        As a general matter, I join in Brian T’s meta-gripe, i.e., griping about the amount of griping about bike projects. It seems like nothing in this city can survive a moment’s publicity without being picked apart, and I get tired of the endless negativity. However, I think Al Diamond’s criticism of this project has been measured, eloquent, and spot-on.

        Moreover, I do take issue with Brian T’s statement that it’s “rich” that people in cars and on bikes have similar concerns about transportation efficiency. I don’t think it’s rich. I think these concerns are natural and legitimate. People pick a transportation mode based on convenience (among other reasons), which includes avoiding delays so as to arrive at one’s destination in a timely manner. So it strikes me as self-defeating for bike advocates to offer a dismissive, stop-and-smell-the-flowers lecture when people complain that a piece of infrastructure causes an “inconvenience” to cyclists.

        I’ll say it again: people pick transportation based on convenience! This means that minimizing delays and inconvenience to cyclists should be among bike advocates’ first concerns (probably second only to safety). Hopefully, soon it will be inconceivable to design a public space like this one without consideration of how to facilitate the smooth flow of bicycle traffic. That is how we will know that bicycles are respected as a legitimate form of transportation.

      • Brian T says:

        I agree that efficiency and convenience are important concerns and should be principal considerations in infrastructure design. I’m also no champion of this particular facility’s design, though it seems pretty good from the perspective of someone who doesn’t actually use it. (Not on my route for commuting, or anything, really.)
        But as bike advocates, I think we need to be aware of the parallels in our quick criticisms of new infrastructure. In other contexts, we react with reproach and head-shaking condescension to car drivers complaining about the “inefficiency” of having bicycles on the street and “in their way.” We do that because we recognize that streets are public places not reserved for exclusive use of cars, but for people on foot and on bicycles, too. So, when I read comments here complaining about “all those people getting in my way,” I cringe a little at the parallel. Sure – we should design infrastructure to make it work safely and efficiently for all users. But we should also tolerate some mixing without labeling that mixing a failure just because we need to slow down a bit for the equivalent of a block or two. Recognize that a person driving a car and going 5 or 10 over the limit or failing to yield to someone trying to walk across the street is driven in part by the same desire for “efficiency” that leads us to want to avoid the mixing zone. (It’s not exactly the same, because that driver is an ass putting someone’s life in jeopardy; but the root is at least similar.) I’m just saying that we should be aware of how the all powerful Pedestrian Lobby will receive our critiques.

  11. Nathanael says:

    It looks quicker to take the crosswalk. What a crazy design.

    • William Wilcock says:

      Definitely a case of “form before function”. There will be a lot of bike pedestrian collisions when bikes headed downhill interact with a pulse of pedestrians coming off a train.

  12. Rob Norheim says:

    Daily Journal of Commerce article describes some of the design decisions behind the project:
    http://www.djc.com/news/ae/12079547.html

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