The UW Burke-Gilman Detour Strikes Back! Section will close Monday until summer 2016

It’s back.

UPDATED 10/12 with new map from UW showing which bridges are open.

UPDATED 10/12 with new map from UW showing which bridges are open.

I know you just started enjoying a fully open Burke-Gilman Trail, but it goes back under the knife Monday.

The good news is that the UW is breaking ground on significant safety and capacity upgrades for one of the busiest stretches of trail you will find anywhere in the US. The bad news is that the construction will require significant detours until next summer.

The upcoming detour route is similar to the route in place last year, except a little shorter and with fewer twists and turns. Some sections of trail will remain open for local access, but won’t work for through-travel. The city also installed new bike lanes on Campus Parkway and Brooklyn that could help better connect the detour route to the University Bridge. 

rendering2The trail remake will include lighting, better sightlines, improved trail intersections and separate spaces for people walking and biking. When complete, the trail will be twice as wide as it is today, which is important for carrying the extra people expected to walk and bike to and from the UW light rail station. That station is scheduled to open in early 2016.

This work comes shortly after the UW received $16 million from the state’s transportation package to remake the trail through their campus. So that means this closure will be far from the last big detour you can expect in the coming years.

And as we reported recently, Seattle’s Parks District also plans its own Burke-Gilman Trail repaving in 2016.

You can learn more about the project and keep up-to-date with detour changes on the UW project website. Details from UW:

Next week, the University of Washington will begin a project that will completely remake a portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail through the campus, providing significant safety and capacity improvements to the region’s premier bicycle and pedestrian corridor. Beginning Monday, Oct. 12, this construction will require a significant detour for people using the trail through the campus. The detour will follow a similar path to the detour that was in place last year and earlier this year, but with some changes. The closure is expected to last about nine months, ending in summer 2016.

For much of this project, the trail will be closed between 15th Avenue NE and Rainer Vista. The detour for through traffic will run from 7th Avenue NE to just east of Rainier Vista. Local traffic will be able to use the trail between 7th and 15th avenues, as well as through the Rainier Vista area from the east, allowing for access to UW Medical Center and the Magnuson Health Sciences Center.

The detour route is designed to be as safe, direct and convenient as possible, running through protected bike lanes and low-traffic shared roads, with traffic control measures planned to improve bicycle safety on Stevens Way.

The detours for people on bicycles and people walking will differ slightly. The routes will be indicated by the same signs used for the previous detour: green for the bicycle detour and blue for the pedestrian detour. Green-backed sharrows on campus roadways will also indicate the bicycle detour route.

The construction will have some other effects, too. The Hitchcock pedestrian and bicycle bridge over NE Pacific Street will close as early as Wednesday, Oct. 14, and remain closed for the duration of the project. The T-wing overpass across Pacific will remain open for the duration of the project. The bus stop near the bridge on the north side of Pacific will move around the corner to the east side of 15th Avenue. Parking lot C10 and some campus roadways may periodically be affected by construction equipment and traffic.

The trail detour and other changes may pose a temporary inconvenience, but significant reward will come at the end of the project: a brand-new section of the Burke-Gilman Trail, enlarged to double its previous width and including separate pathways for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. It will also feature new lights, more blue emergency phones, clarified intersections and improved sightlines. While these improvements will make for a better trail experience overall, they are especially necessary with the opening of the nearby UW light rail station coming next year. The project also includes the construction of a new secure bike parking facility near the T-wing overpass, with space for more than 100 bicycles.

Updates about the effects of this project, including the Hitchcock bridge closure, will be posted at transportation.uw.edu/bgt. If you haven’t already, visit our website to sign up for email updates about this project and other news affecting transportation at the UW.

Thank you for your patience and support while we undergo this project to provide a better Burke-Gilman Trail for the University and for Seattle.

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34 Responses to The UW Burke-Gilman Detour Strikes Back! Section will close Monday until summer 2016

  1. jt says:

    Astonished that they have to close it for so long to get this done, and of course will be glad when the improvements will be finished. Still, if anyone thinks separate facilities for bikes and pedestrians will actually keep pedestrians off the bike-only part, I’ve got a 3-mile ride along Alki beach and Duwamish Head to take you on. At least no one rents out those enormous flintstones-style bike cars near UW… yet!

    As always, be careful everyone on that sharp right turn going downhill (westbound detour) behind the Architecture building. My wife slid out on that spot on a rainy day last year, and I’ve felt nervous every time I pass through it.

    • Gary Anderson says:

      Yes, they definitely need to provide better visual cues to get pedestrians to use the sidewalk and wheeled users on the asphalt part. It they don’t do this they shouldn’t bother with the expensive concrete paving and grade separation and just pave the whole width with asphalt.

      • bill says:

        Agreed. The concrete/asphalt bit under the new Rainier Vista overpass has been a failure from the start. I see bikes going west on the concrete all the time.

      • Josh says:

        It will take more than visual cues.

        Concrete is a terrible surface for running/jogging, so there’s a strong practical incentive for joggers to use the bike section of the trail.

        You can see the same many other places, joggers prefer bike lanes over sidewalks because asphalt is a better surface for them.

        Maybe the next time they rebuild this section of trail they can make the pedestrian part more pedestrian-friendly than the bike part.

      • RTK says:

        As a lifelong runner the order or preference is dirt, asphalt then far behind is running on concrete. What would be great if there was a dirt / gravel path along the edge. This exists at multiple places along the BGT.

      • Josh says:

        I’m sure they want the pedestrian surface to be suitable for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, etc., which makes a soft-surface trail problematic unless there’s room for three trail sections.

        But there’s another option that works really well — rubberized pervious pavement panels are often used on sidewalks where tree roots extend under the sidewalk.

        They don’t kill the tree roots, they allow water to percolate instead of running off, they’re firm enough for wheels and smooth enough for canes, they don’t crack when the roots heave up, and they happen to be springier then asphalt.

      • Ints says:

        Compacted aggregate is compliant with ADA guidelines so they could use it for the pedestrian focused path section.
        If they want to effctively separate uses on a multi-use trail (the irony is intentional) then they should physically separate the paths. Now for a soupcon of added irony, even if they do separate paths, the cyclocross riders will promptly ride the gravel pedestrian path just like they do on other sections of the BGT.

      • Josh says:

        Rubberized pavement is too smooth and drains too well to be interesting to cyclocross riders, and it has higher rolling resistance than asphalt, so roadies would be faster on the bike pavement.

  2. Ben P says:

    At first I was annoyed by the detour, but after a while I grew to enjoy it. It might be slower and more dangerous, but it’s much more interesting, with lots of tight turns, cool buildings, and different people.

  3. Southeasterner says:

    Crazy question but why did they need two separate closures within three years of each other for the same segment of trail?

    Did the UW defer maintenance on a trail until a year before they planned to completely rip it up and rebuild it.

    • Stuart Strand says:

      The rebuild of Rainer vista had to be done last year as part of the Link UW station and the funds for the trail renovation were made available only this year due to statehouse politics around the transportation package.

      I hope that our luck holds out and there are no serious accidents on this detour, which is especially dangerous at 40th and 15th when pedestrians and bicyclist crowd into the narrow sidewalk cut on the southeast cut.

      • Ints says:

        Hopefully some of the improvements done to the detour route would include signage and other elements to alert cyclists to ride with the appropriate speed and caution when sharing space with pedestrians.
        Then again, seeing pedestrians at an intersection, you would think we riders would put two and two together.

    • Rob Norheim says:

      The funding for this section of trail is actually *not* from the legislature; it is from a federal grant obtained in partnership with PSRC. There were all sorts of bureaucratic hassles with the grant as the UW is not the right kind of entity to receive such a grant, hence PSRC got involved. They did intend to do this work at the same time as Rainier Vista but the bids came in way over the budget, so they had to scale back the plans and rebid, which caused the delay.

      The funding the legislature provided will be for the rest of the trail through campus; i.e. between 15th and the UBridge, and north from Rainier Vista.

      • Stuart Strand says:

        Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like there will be more construction next year after the vista to 15th work.

    • Rob Norheim says:

      Yes, lots more construction after this segment is finished. I was told that they are at about 80% design for some of those segments, but they won’t be ready to start the next phase in June (when this one wraps up), so there will be at least a brief respite before the next detour. They also don’t know yet whether the northern or western segment will be next. They are really hoping for grade separation at Pend Orielle.

  4. Mike says:

    Bad construction and funding coordination here. Tons of people will be biking to the UW Station on the Gilman starting in March, yet it’ll be closed again for some time creating a spaghetti splattering of bike routing. One of the key access points to the not-so-well-located UW Station is the easy, safe bike access from the Gilman. The usual questions loom of why wasn’t this project completed earlier with the Mountlake Triangle Project closures and to open with the opening of ULink? Could ST have funded the project with the $100M+ savings on ULink to accelerate the project? And, why is it taking 9 months to build 5 blocks worth of trail?

  5. Stuart Strand says:

    So the light rail station will open this winter and scores of pedestrians will be walking up to campus on the bike trail detour route every time a train arrives. Sounds like a mess in the making.

  6. Ott Toomet says:

    I find it hard to understand why to pour 16M into the trail in campus. Sure, this is not the best place to cycle I have seen, but it is definitely in the top 5% stretches in the city. Please—If you have this money then rather put it in
    * build the missing connection in Ballard
    * make some sort of convenient way to connect BK trail and University bridge
    * make Montlake bridge (and the streets right south of it) a better place to bike
    * straighten and widen those sections of the trail Between Fremont and Ballard that are narrower, and require too much maneuvering, compared to the campus.

    In general–if you have money to spend then think where the money would do most good… I experienced something similar when going from Redmond to Issaquah last weekend. The Redmond central connector is acceptable but ends abruptly near where 520 begins. No signs, no detours no nothing. But they want to pave the souther gravely part of the trail, which is fine (although would fine better with asphalt, of course). Even more, that part of the trail also just ends at Gilman boulevard with no crosswalk or bike bridge or any other way to cross it…

    • Phil Miller says:

      I think it would be great to spend $16 million in all of these places, Ott, but understand that the UW received funding to make trail improvements on the section of trail it owns and operates, not Ballard (SDOT) or Montlake Bridge (WSDOT). Improvements on the connection from the Burke to University Bridge have just gone in, by the way….see Campus Parkway protected lanes.

      It’s understandable that we want everything done now, and that everything aligns just so. Real life sometimes intervenes, and we have to do the best we can. The Redmond connector at 520? The need is known to all, but other changes are coming to that interchange that will make that connection easier and more affordable to implement. By all means, keep speaking up, get involved with local advisory groups when you can – but in the meantime we all need to keep our heads up and ride with care during the construction programs that are underway all around us.

    • RossB says:

      I’m not sure how much of that the city can actually do:

      * The missing link in Ballard is being held up by litigation.
      * They are working on the connection, and mentioned and referenced on this post.
      * Montlake Bridge is changing because of the 520 project. At this point no one knows exactly what will be built.
      * I’m not sure what it would take to straighten and widen the bad parts between Fremont and Ballard. I’m guessing that it would require the purchase of some land. That is definitely worth considering, though, since that is an annoying section that is used by a lot of people, and those numbers are increasing.

      • Michael Hooning says:

        While it would be great to straighten out the Burke Gilman Trail between Fremont and Ballard, there is no land available to purchase for this. The railroad right of way is owned by the Ballard Terminal Railroad Co., and the owners have been consistently opposed to bicycle facilities. Until this stops being an “active” rail line, there is no option beyond the insufficient facility that is there.

      • jay says:

        Even though this is straying way off topic….

        I’m pretty sure the railroad right of way is OWNED by the city of Seattle, it is LEASED to Ballard Terminal (Fake) Railroad.

        The scare quotes around “active” are appropriate. I suspect one of the reasons Salmon bay wants their fake railroad is so their employees can park on city property for free. Ironically, city code prohibits parking within 6 feet of railroad tracks.

        Yea, yea, I know, one in a while they haul in some cement from around Golden Gardens, (not from Fremont). They then combine the cement with a larger portion of aggregate they barge in, and then send the mixture out by truck. Having a (fake) railroad only provides a modest reduction in truck traffic, it doesn’t eliminate it.

        Here’s an idea, how about metering all the parking on Shilshoal (and enforcing the prohibition of parking on/near tracks) then use the proceeds to buy Ballard Terminal RR, and then “abandon” it to other uses. (One might think it would not be for sale, but $3/hour, 2 hour limit, no re-parking on the same street, immediately towing vehicles encroaching on the “active” rail line, would provide considerable leverage)

  7. Dave says:

    I live in a southern Washington city with damn near no mass transit. My wife and I visit Seattle a couple of times a year and try to avoid either driving there or driving while we are there–our trips area almost all bicycle and transit based. I know it must be a pain in the ass to deal with if it’s your regular route but it’s a great problem to have. Speaking as the resident of a city run by anti mass-transit jihadists you folks have a very enviable problem!

  8. Dave P says:

    Argh! This is so frustrating. The trail was open all of 3 months, and now it’ll be closed for another year. All it needs is some grinding and repaving. The “separated” pedestrian and bike lanes are not working. A wider trail would be nice, but there are far worse problems on the BGT in numerous other places, Stone Way intersection, connection to Fremont Bridge, the section near Gas Works.

    • Ott Toomet says:

      Agree. I would suggest to think in cost-benefit terms–I am not sure the proposed improvement will ever outweigh the costs of closing the trail for another 9 months. The previous detour was not that hard when going alone but a notable hassle with children. I would also add closing a pedestrian overpass the the cost side.

      But improving what is good enough and not touching the important issues is widespread in Europe as well..

  9. NoSpin says:

    Hopefully this time they won’t place a fire hydrant in the path the way they did when they ‘improved’ the BGT crossing at Adams by Mercer Court – a serious safety goof, only made into more of a bad joke when they ‘fixed’ it by putting steel post next to it.

    • ronp says:

      that “test” area with the hydrant is just terrible, I turn right heading westbound there to head to the stairs up to the University bridge. landscape architects, UW facilities staff should use virtual reality to “bike” this infrastructure after getting real life GPS tracks from riders.

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  11. Dave P says:

    For what it’s worth, this detour hasn’t started yet. At least as of this morning.

    • fs says:

      Yup; I did a Fremont -> Sand Point trip on 10/20: I tried out the detour on the way there and then decided to disregard the signs on the way back because I’d seen people merge with me from the “detour” section; still nothing actually happening as of then.

  12. Louren says:

    It’s now Summer 2016 – any clue when this detour will end?

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