State will close busy Fremont section of Burke-Gilman Trail Monday – UPDATED

UPDATE 7/8: WSDOT announced Friday that this closure is being put on hold so the team can rethink how the trail detour will work. From WSDOT:

The planned closure of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood on Monday, July 11 is postponed. WSDOT will work with the bicycle community, the City of Seattle and others on next steps to provide passage for bikers and pedestrians near the Aurora Bridge work zone.

Map from WSDOT

Map from WSDOT


WSDOT will close a very busy section of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Fremont starting Monday and extending until Halloween.

Crews will stage equipment on the trail as part of their ongoing Aurora Bridge painting project.

Detour plans do not include a temporary trail or bikeway. Instead, plans call for trail users to be detoured to N 34th Street between Phinney Ave and Stone Way. The busy section of N 34th Street between Stone and Fremont Ave has paint-only bike lanes, which are often impeded by backed-up turning traffic or nearby construction.

When asked how this detour was chosen, WSDOT’s Kris Olsen said Seattle’s DOT advised it.

WSDOT and the contractor consulted with the city of Seattle, which advised us that 34th is its approved and standard detour route when closures are necessary on the trail in this area.

There are no plans for a temporary trail or to add protection to the existing bike lanes on N 34th Street, though there could be a chance for improvements:

There are no plans for a temporary trail. The city did not require additional layers of protection on 34th. If you have some thoughts on that, we’d certainly consider and consult with the city whether they’re needed and could be implemented.

Olsen said the city is looking into intersection timing improvements at Stone Way. Something like an all-way phase for people walking and biking would be a huge help for westbound trail users trying make the difficult diagonal crossing from the trail to the N 34th Street bike lane, for example.

Facing west on the trail. It's difficult for groups of people to make the diagonal crossing at this intersection to reach the N 34th Street bike lane.

Facing west on the trail. It’s difficult for groups of people to make the diagonal crossing at this intersection to reach the N 34th Street bike lane.

The most obvious solution here is to route a temporary trail through the parking area or on Northlake Way between Stone Way and the trail crossing under the Aurora Bridge. Northlake “was not considered because it is narrow with no bike lanes,” said Olsen. “That said, there won’t be any barriers in place to prevent someone from using Northlake for a short distance and rejoining the trail at the building located at 1000 N. Northlake Way.”

However, there appears to be plenty of room there for a temporary trail:

No room for a trail?

Even if the parking area is not an option (it is owned the Fremont Dock Co, not the public), Northlake Way could become a one-way street during construction, creating space for a temporary trail.

Alternatively, the state could help the city expedite the Bike Master Plan’s call for protected bike lanes on N 34th Street, though Monday is a pretty tight timeline for that much work (why more notice for such a big closure would be useful).

The Burke-Gilman Trail is a family-friendly, all ages and abilities bike route. N 34th Street is not. Kids bike on the Burke-Gilman Trail. So do people who are just getting started biking or who are nervous about biking near traffic. This is especially true during the height of summer.

People who are experienced at biking and know the area well will certainly just bike down Northlake. But others could be lost and confused (“They don’t want me to bike on that busy street, do they?”).

Failing to provide an adequate detour of such an important trail sends a clear message that the city and state just don’t value trail users. If they did, a detour of comparable comfort and safety would be provided during such a construction closure. Thousands of people use this stretch of trail every day, making it among the busiest sections of trail in the state. This isn’t just any ol’ trail.

The good news is that a short, temporary trail is very easy to create in this situation. It’s the obvious solution here, and planners should make sure it or something of comparable safety is in place before the trail closes:

trail-map copyThis project should also be the kick the city needs to finally build the planned (and spray-painted) bikeway connection from the bridge to the trail west of Fremont Ave. That will be more important than ever during this construction so no more time for delays.

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47 Responses to State will close busy Fremont section of Burke-Gilman Trail Monday – UPDATED

  1. Gary Yngve says:

    Yes, an all-way walk cycle at Stone & 34th would help immensely. Even before the closure, you see cyclists hopping the curb midblock from the BGT to Stone Way westbound in traffic gaps, and you see cyclists going westbound on the eastbound bicycle lane.

    Also, Northlake would be a much better street for cycling if they could install traffic calming for cars wanting to race, as well as fix the potholes and railroad track pieces. I’d like to see the BGT used as a MUP for mellow cycling and the faster cyclists take Northlake or 34th if the trail is crowded. Unfortunately, some car drivers harass cyclists for being on 34th or Northlake.

    • Lynne Jones says:

      Yep – definitely have been yelled at by drivers on Northlake and 34th when I was on my bike on those streets. In both cases, I was actually headed to the BGT, but you can’t magically get on the trail before you reach an intersection.

      • Lisa Enns says:

        Argh, I’ve had people tell me, “there’s a trail right there…” when I’m on Canal street. I know, but I have to get off of the trail SOMEWHERE to get to where I’m going. It’s the equivalent of telling a driver on an access road “there’s a freeway right there…”

  2. Andres Salomon says:

    It blows my mind that this city cares so little about our bicycle (and walking) infrastructure. It’s such a valuable asset for the city; it’s one of the reasons I moved here in the first place.

    Oh well. Message heard loud and clear, Seattle.

    • Matthew Snyder says:

      Is there any evidence that Kubly, who presumably was hired in part because of his bicycle experience, is doing anything to change the culture at SDOT? From an outsider’s perspective, SDOT just seems like a fundamentally broken organization, at least when it comes to bicycle infrastructure (which, to be honest, is what I pay most attention to). How long of a leash does he get from the bicycling community?

      • Andres Salomon says:

        I have no real insight into the management of SDOT other than what’s public. However, from my perspective things seem incredibly broken right now. The sad part is, SDOT has some really good people in it (some of whom have thanked me for continuing to apply pressure on them to keep things moving). But as an organization, there seems to be a lot of mismanagement, project delays, lack of communication, and a lack of focus.

        I wonder more about the leash that the Mayor keeps Kubly on. Ultimately, Kubly answers to the Murray, and I can’t imagine that Murray was happy with how the whole Pronto thing (not just the sale, but also the ethics questions) went down. At this point I’ve pretty much lost hope in SDOT doing anything bold.

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    Also, if WSDOT is planning to park heavy machinery/trucks on the trail, I do hope that they’re planning to fix any pavement issues that they create. I’m guessing that the trail is not designed to handle 3+ ton vehicles, and it would suck if they wreck the pavement during this closure and then just leave it as-is.

  4. Fish says:

    That whole area around 34th and Stone Way just needs to be completely revamped to be more bike and pedestrian friendly. Between the Brooks HQ building and Tableau’s new building across the street, there are now a lot more people in that area. The timing of that light is terrible–if nothing else there is not nearly enough car traffic to justify the left turn only lights. I work at that corner and there’s at least 1-2 minutes extra time at that light for left turns after all of the cars have already gone through. It’s at the point now where all of the pedestrians just jaywalk because the wait for the lights is so long. Someone is seriously going to get hurt in that area if the city doesn’t act soon.

    • Morganb says:

      One of the issues with the Stone & 34th intersection is the tremendous increase in traffic using N-Lake, probably as a shortcut to 520 & the U Dist and becuase it has no stop signs or calming measures besides potholes. I’ll bet that many of these trips are Ballard to Redmond.
      I recommend impeding this route and lubricating the upper route (34 & Pacific), because drivers can go under the BG bridge at 6th Ave. A long string of secondary adjustments would be required, since this braid of roads is already full at peak.
      To redirect traffic above the BG, I would imagine there are adjustments to the traffic light functioning that would do this, like extending the left arrow when southbound on Stone and making the westbound drivers on North Lake wait longer to get to Leary via 34th or Stone/35th. Perhaps also stripe an east-bound lane where 40th comes east to 6th so that Ballard to Redmond drivers can go toward 520 again. The merge of 40th st & N Lake would be worse……the list of cascading adjustments continues, I’m sure.

  5. Jeff G. says:

    I bet they didn’t take into account the building construction happening on 34th just east of Fremont ave. That construction regularly closes off the westbound sidewalk and bike lane during the day, requiring pedestrians to cross to the other side of the street and bikes to merge into traffic. This needs to be addressed if they are going to funnel all trail traffic up up to 34th.

    • Chris Mobley says:

      ^^^ Yes this. The building construction on 34th and Troll Ave (https://goo.gl/maps/zphqM4FpHpH2) and the related sidewalk/bikelane closure makes the planned detour a non-starter. Forcing trail users (many of them inexperienced bike riders or children) into a narrow paint only bike lane is bad enough. But having to navigate a construction closure of that detour will effectively create a new missing link in the BGT until WSDOT is done. Unacceptable!

  6. Davepar says:

    When is the UW going to be finished with their second major closure of the trail? “Early summer” is my recollection, and here we are. At least that closure is to improve the trail.

    +1 for all-way walk at Stone and 34th. Long overdue. The timing on that light right now is terrible.

  7. Andy says:

    That temporary trail is how I currently go anyway.
    I hate riding past the cafe and salon because I’m scared someone will walk right out into me, so I always go via Northlake Way and then rejoin the trail at the dinosaur plant.

    • 47hasbegun says:

      I do the same for the same reason. I also don’t like the crosswalk at 34th and Stone.

    • Gary S Anderson says:

      I too do the same to avoid the cafe entrance. Northlake Way seems the the best alternative, much less auto traffic interaction compared to 34th and the Fremont intersection. Wouldn’t it be easy to paint temporary trail markers?

      • Morganb says:

        My understanding is that the p-lot is private, but I’m sure something can be figured out

  8. Andy says:

    It seems really strange to route the detour through the Sunday Market, though – disappointing that SDOT would have a designated detour route with that conflict.

  9. wmwago says:

    So. Parking lots are dumb, I get that.

    But–If I understand this correctly, and within our current framework–I honestly believe the group that has the most right to be upset about this is the private parking lot owners/users (and I’m a car-hating cyclist pinko). It’s pretty clear the city is saying “sorry, no detour [wink wink]” because they can’t use the private parking lot as a link to Northlake. Westward on Northlake itself at that stretch is quite dangerous, for the reasons the city mentioned, as well as the fact that cars on a westward cyclist’s right are pulling out backwards of an angled in parking spot (the worst possible position to be in, visibility-wise). Meanwhile, the one-way parking lot is perfect westward route that begins right where the Burke will end, while any cars pulling out are to the cyclists left. Eastwards, there is little issue, and I expect people will naturally use Northlake to link up to the trail. So we use Northlake going East, and the parking lot going West, and everyone is happy–except people who would prefer that their private parking isn’t a bike arterial.

    Let’s not forget that this stretch of the Burke is not some bike utopia. There are three blind corners, tech and picnic folks moseying about the trail, and some pretty gnarly bumps caused by roots under the pavement. For safety’s sake, I’ve used 34th for a while (starting at that always-empty diagonal alley before the Stone intersection, travelling westward) and find it preferable. Though I realize some folks aren’t comfortable in the streets, this is a rapidly growing city, and we (cyclists and drivers alike) need to be at least somewhat flexible when our routes are upset by infrastructure projects (see: shit we’re all dealing with on Roosevelt for a bike path that really doesn’t need to exist, being built for the purpose of funneling cyclists down a frighteningly dangerous “protected” bike lane).

  10. Dave says:

    Going west its best to turn onto Northlake Place west of Densmore, to come to a stop sign and real intersection before crossing 34th rather than jump the curb later as I see many cyclists do. Northlake place is now open again as construction had it closed for several months.

    • wmwago says:

      Ah yes Northlake Place, that’s the “alley” I was trying to remember the name of in my comment above. Agreed.

    • Matthew Snyder says:

      I’ve noticed that even though Northlake Place is open again, there’s still a lot of flat-causing construction debris on that street: things like staples, nails, screws, little bits of wire. It’s gotten better recently, and hopefully the residual debris will eventually find its way out of the roadway, but I just picked up a big staple there a few days ago and flatted.

      • Josh says:

        With what tires and tubes cost, if the City won’t clean it up, somebody who rides that route frequently should tow a magnetic sweeper through the alley a few times. (Not some place I usually ride, but I’ve done this for spilled roofing staples on my commute route.)

        They’re designed to push by hand, but can easily be bungied to a rear rack. A lot better than waiting for debris to get carried away by other people’s tires. http://amzn.to/29lpth8

        (But then, I have an internal-gear rear hub with nutted axles and a hub brake, so changing a rear flat is more of an ordeal than for the average road bike. I always carry a dustpan on my commuter for cleaning glass off the trails, too.)

    • Morganb says:

      Not many bicyclists are willing to add that extra (small) hill. Flat and exciting seems the thing.

  11. Damon says:

    Some percentage of people who start using Northlake as a detour will recognize that Northlake is generally faster (it’s the way I usually go, eastbound), and so when this is all over with we’ll have more cyclists on Northlake. That’s bound to create a lot more friction with the drivers there.

    Westbound, this is going to create problems. If you’re going to go WB on Northlake, the time to move down there isn’t at the light at Stone, which can lose you upwards of two minutes; it’s a block or two earlier, by Gasworks Park. Since the recent construction there, what used to be an easy full-block merge is now a split-second, whip-your-head-around, make-the-call-and-hope merge.

    That’s not going to go well for everybody, all the time. Plus, once you do that, if you get stuck waiting for the light at 34th, it’s very tempting to cut through the oncoming lane to get to the next section of Northlake. I’m afraid somebody’s going to get hurt this summer.

  12. Damon says:

    All that said, I would love to see some good come of this. Just about any adjustment to the light at Stone would have to be a positive change. Currently, the walk signal for the BGT is laughably short, followed by a long period in which the orange hand is up but there’s only minimal eastbound-right-turn traffic to contend with. It’s as good an invitation to run a light as you’ll ever see.

    • Al Dimond says:

      Of course the same right-turn conflict exists in the walk phase as it is (often an eastbound green-and-left-arrow), so there’s no reason for the signal to be programmed to give the BGT the “stop” sign in the 34th-Street-green phase. I go through during that phase every time I see it.

      • Damon says:

        So do I, unless there’s already a crowd blocking me. It’s maddening that that whole 34th-street-green phase isn’t a walk sign.

  13. Queso says:

    As long as sdot is willing to close the biggest bike route and multi use trail in the city with no detour for months, there should be no problem closing the alternate route to automobile traffic for the duration, considering that auto traffic has dozens of alternative streets available.

  14. Al Dimond says:

    Woulda been nice if the city had finished the project on 34th west of Fremont Ave, at least. That part always gets crazy with westbound cyclists riding on the wrong side of the double-yellow, or on various parts of the south sidewalk, and crossing Evanston in every crazy way possible.

  15. kommish says:

    If I had a dollar for every construction project, staging for construction project, construction project debris field, t00-narrow temporary sidewalk, or other obstruction that has caused me to have to route out of sometimes brand-new bike infrastructure (looking at you, 2nd Ave, and also Roosevelt/southbound U Bridge) into traffic, just on my commute to and from work, I would have a lot of dollars.

    No wonder people gripe about the cost of bike infrastructure – feels like we barely get to use it.

  16. Gary S Anderson says:

    These kinds of decisions by SDOT make me wonder how they are going to decide on the BGT missing link route.

  17. Sally says:

    This used to be an annual occurrence. They finished the Fremont section of the Burke in the mid or late nineties. Then they closed for construction projects something like 8 of the first 10 years the trail was complete.

  18. Bb says:

    Staging area, since when do the close freeways to be used as staging areas. Never.

    Yet for second class citizens we , shutdown grocery stores, parks, bike lanes, and trails.

    And these staging areas are to improve infrastructure cyclists don’t use.

    • ChefJoe says:

      Have you ever heard of all the times the viaduct gets closed so some section of it can be used for marathons and other non-vehicular uses ?

  19. AW says:

    Let me get this straight. The heavily used bike and pedestrian path is going to be closed so that trucks and other equipment can be parked there while the bikes are encouraged to drive through the parking lot. Perhaps the trucks can be parked in the parking lot and the bikes ride on the bike path ? Radical idea but sometimes the most obvious thing should be obvious. (and yes, I’ll bet this is all done so WSDOT doesn’t have to pay for using the private land).

    • Breadbaker says:

      Bingo! (“We didn’t budget for it because we figured SDOT would simply let us use this valuable and well-used bike path all summer and into fall for free; what could possibly go wrong?”)

  20. Scott A says:

    I’m happy to read the update. I’m hoping the updated and rethought plan will involve a scaffold protection deck built above the trail so work can proceed on the bridge above the trail. With some extra effort I would hope equipment and trucks serving the project could be located nearby to serve the job without closing the trail for months. A few days here and there or a few weekends is one thing but months of closure at this part of the trail should be a last resort.

  21. Don Brubeck says:

    Thank you for the post and practical solutions, Tom

    SDOT just needs to enforce it’s Traffic Control Manual on its own work and on WSDOT’s work in Seattle streets. Check out Ch VII for Bicycle routes. Very progressive regulations. The rules are there. The implementation and follow through is lacking.

    http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/tcmanual/2013/VII.%20Bicycle%20Access.pdf

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  24. Doug Bostrom says:

    Probably redundant but the thing that strikes me about this is the casual and automatic assumption that placing equipment on a heavily used public thoroughfare and thereby blocking it for months is at all an option to begin with.

    Statistically, we –know– this plan will result in some kind of injury to one or more persons. I’m curious to know if a formal cost/benefit analysis was presented by contractors and SDOT personnel producing the proposal. What is the cost of producing injuries versus the cost of alternative means of staging equipment?

    When/if a settlement is paid for whatever injuries or other mayhem are the result of mixing transport modes for putative cost saving purposes, will we have a rational basis for paying that money, or will this be purely ad hoc, post facto reaction? Is there an amount included in the budget to cover restitution?

    Deeply slopppy.

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