Big deal for UW Station access, remade Burke-Gilman opens today

Opens today! Photo from UW.

Opens today! Photo from UW.

If you biked the UW Burke-Gilman Trail detour today, that was likely the last time you will have to do it.

The key stretch of trail from 15th Ave NE to UW Station is set to open today (exact time TBD, stay tuned for updates UPDATE: It’s open!), UW Transportation Services said in an email Friday.

The trail segment closed for construction in October, just three months after the bridge to Husky Stadium opened. It has been under construction for the entire operational life of UW Station.

Even without the trail, bike access to light rail has been high. Now the Burke-Gilman will be the easiest and more direct route between the U District core and UW Station.

And Pronto Cycle Share announced last week that they will have a bike share station at UW Station by the end of the month. Anything UW, Sound Transit, SDOT and Pronto can do to speed up this station move would go a long way.

Aside from essentially doubling the width, the trail work fixed some tricky spots and blind pathway intersections in the old trail. It also created separate walking and biking spaces to reduce conflicts and added lighting. Even before UW Station, this section of trail could be very crowded. So though the detour was a pain, this should prove to be a big update.

More details from UW:

The section of the Burke-Gilman Trail between 15th Avenue NE and Rainier Vista, which has been closed for construction since October 2015, is scheduled to reopen by the evening commute on Monday, August 8th. North-south connections in the area, including the Hitchcock Bridge over NE Pacific Street, will reopen Monday as well.

This highly used section of trail, owned by the University of Washington, has been totally remade. The trail has doubled in width to accommodate increasing capacity levels with the opening of UW Station nearby. Other improvements include separate pathways, on separate grades, for people walking and people biking – making for a smoother, safer trip no matter how you’re using the trail. As on the Rainier Vista underpass section of the trail, if you’re walking, use the concrete sidewalk; if you’re biking, use the asphalt track.

The new trail is safer in other ways, too. Intersections with other pathways are more clearly indicated, both for people using the trail and people crossing it, with grade and surface material changes to cue trail users. The trail will be more well-lit at night, with new overhead LED lights installed along the entire new section. It will also have more blue emergency phones.

In short, the new trail will provide a safer, more comfortable experience, with room for more people to use it safely.

That’s important, because the number of people using it is expected to soar in the coming years. This section of trail connects people to the UW campus, the heart of the University District, UW Medical Center and the new UW Station. Thanks to the University Link extension, ridership on Link light rail has grown by more than 80 percent since last year. And the new SR 520 bridge walking and biking path is set to connect to Montlake Boulevard NE in summer 2017. Plus, a new Life Sciences Complex is scheduled to open along the trail in 2018.

Another piece of this project is the construction of a new secure bike house in parking lot C10, near the T-wing bridge. We expect that construction to be complete in August. UW faculty, staff and students interested in using the bike house for bike parking can email ucommute@uw.edu to get on our waiting list.

As you might know, the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee awarded the UW $16 million in their 2015 transportation package to make similar renovations to the trail on the east end of campus, from Rainier Vista all the way north to NE 47th Street. In the package, the BGT project is listed as a “Priority 3” project, with the funding scheduled for between 2021 and 2025. In the short term, the UW is committed to preserving the entire 1.7 miles of UW-owned trail.

We encourage everyone to get outside in this beautiful summer weather and experience the newly reopened BGT for a taste of the improved trail that the UW and the region will enjoy for years to come.

Thank you,
UW Transportation Services

This entry was posted in news and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Big deal for UW Station access, remade Burke-Gilman opens today

  1. William says:

    Why did such a straightforward project take 10 months?

    Can the UW please now fix the blind intersection it recently built between the Burke Gilman and that SE access path to Rainer Vista?

    • Kyle says:

      Not so sure its that straight-forward – significant retaining walls and the reconstruction of an ancient rail trestle (widening and realignment) makes this a lot more than a “slap-the-asphalt down” project. 10 months (albeit an extended 10 months apparently due to some late construction difficulties) isn’t that unreasonable – this was construction, not maintenance.

      • Law Abider says:

        @Kyle: Good description. I love it when people, who have no experience with construction at all, complain about time, cost or anything else.

      • William says:

        Granted this was much more than a 2-4 week resurfacing project, and periods of inactivity are required for concrete curing, but if it was a major route for cars (as opposed to bicycles), it would have been done a heck of a lot more quickly. Anybody who walked regularly over the overpass into Health Sciences would have observed that for much of the project, work was limited to a small crew working on a small section at one time. That is not a way to make good progress.

      • Law Abider says:

        @William: Please tell me what major roadway reconstruction, with similar mileage to the BGT reconstruction, was completed in less than 10 months.

      • William says:

        Since when was ~1/4 mile of roadway with retaining walls a major construction project. Every year numerous roadways in the US get damaged by floods landslides etc., requiring reconstruction of the roadway often with complex stabilization structures far in excess of the BGT revamp – when these roadways are deemed important the work is done in a lot less than 10 months.

        For this project there was little activity at the onset for more than a week after installation of security fencing. Early on in the project there was a two month period when a team with one backhoe and one truck worked methodically along the trail to remove trees, lift pavement and undertake minor earth movements. It does not require a degree in construction management to realize that two backhoes and two trucks would have done this in about half the time eliminating most of the schedule delays that accrued for this project.

    • Curi says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more regarding the blind intersection where the path from Rainier Vista spills onto the BG trail. It’s a t-bone disaster waiting to happen. I bet there have already been a few bad accidents there already and I just am not aware of it. I’m a thick-skinned daily commuter who isn’t afraid to take risks, and that intersection drives me nuts every single day. It’s going to get much worse now that the trail has been reopened since A) there will be many more cyclists present, and B) a higher percentage of those cyclists will be carrying some speed as they fly past the junction rather than turning onto Rainier Vista for the detour. I slow down a lot there, but many do not. Although the grass is visually appealing, it really poses a high degree of danger to cyclists.

      • Josh says:

        Danger to cyclists and danger from cyclists — pedestrians hit by people riding 15+ mph can easily be injured or even killed (Green River Trail fatality, for example.)

        Yes, riders legally should be riding at a safe speed to allow yielding to any pedestrians on the trail, but do we really expect that to work any better on a trail than it does on a street?

      • Curi says:

        Yep, good points, Josh. Pedestrians are not excluded from the risk of injury at that junction. And no, people typically won’t yield unless they are forced to. Doesn’t matter if they’re on foot, bike, or in a car. They need to fix it.

      • asdf2 says:

        For starters, the Ranier Vista path should have a stop sign where it intersects the Burke Gilman trail. I’ve always been stopping there anyway, stop sign or no because the narrow sightlines would have it very dangerous to do otherwise.

      • Stuart Strand says:

        No signs please; signs on posts are guaranteed to be sources of injury. Paint STOP on the pavement.

      • EHS says:

        Yeah, it’s awful. I take it to get from the BG, southbound to the other side of the Montlake cut all the time, and it’s sketchier than the sidewalk portions or any other, really.

        I’d love to see a roundabout there. Roundabouts are a great way to handle high traffic VoLTE and highly variable traffic volume, all without making anybody wait unnecessarily long, and bringing everybody’s speed down. I’ve used the ones on UCSB’s campus and they work great (after the first week of classes, that is)

      • letsGo says:

        +1 @Curi. I also pass through that on my commute every day, and surprised there are no signs painted on the roadway at the junction.

      • Josh says:

        Legally, you can’t just paint STOP on the pavement — pavement STOP markings supplement but don’t replace STOP signs. But there are standards for how far off the trail a STOP sign pole needs to be.

        Many jurisdictions routinely ignore those standards, unfortunately, just like they do bollard safety standards or hazard marking standards, but they exist precisely because signposts can be serious hazards if they’re too close to the trail.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Josh makes a good argument as to why the transportation departments, not the parks departments, should be in charge of cycling infrastructure including dedicated cycleways.

      • Josh says:

        Or in this case, UW, rather than Parks, I believe.

        UW also screwed up the BGT crossing at Pend Oreille, if I remember correctly, putting illegal R1-6 “YIELD here for crosswalk” signs and markings for drivers on the street, when Washington law actually requires R1-6a, “STOP here for crosswalks.”

        Again, let transportation professionals do it right.

  2. Davepar says:

    Finally. This was supposed to re-open “early” summer. For someone who commutes through there every day, having the BGT closed the last two springs and most of this summer has been really unpleasant. I’m excited to see the improvements, but this section wouldn’t have been my first choice for upgrading. I rarely had any issue there versus almost daily near-misses or collisions in the section near Gas Works Park.

    “if you’re walking, use the concrete sidewalk; if you’re biking, use the asphalt track”
    This is clearly not working. Pedestrians are all over the trail in other areas with the concrete/asphalt thing.

    “The new trail is safer in other ways, too. Intersections with other pathways…”
    The plantings near the Rainier Vista from last year’s project are starting to cause a problem. I can’t see over the tall grass at those intersections any more. Anybody have a grass trimmer I could borrow?

    “In the short term, the UW is committed to preserving the entire 1.7 miles of UW-owned trail.”
    I’m glad to read this. The root heaves east of Rainier Vista are way overdue for some attention. Hopefully they didn’t plant trees right next to the trail in the new section.

    • Josh says:

      Asphalt is a better surface for runners than concrete — the engineering contradicts the signage.

      Unfortunately, that’s standard practice in many jurisdictions.

      Maybe engineers and standards-drafters need to study their users better?

      • Kyle says:

        The trail also has a crushed aggregate path in the design for runners. Unfortunately, runners tend to defy convention in terms of what they prefer – kind of like bicyclists.

      • 47hasbegun says:

        I see runners in general traffic lanes and bike lanes regularly, so how would a multi-use trail comprised of the same elements be any different?

        Something I wonder about is people who jog in the streets paved with concrete. Are they unaware that it’s basically the same hard stuff as the sidewalks?

      • Kirk says:

        The “asphalt is better for runners” myth has been debunked many times. That asphalt is flexible for a multi-ton truck really has no bearing on someone running in shock absorbing shoes. I just wish they had better signage and frequent markings on the trail, like they do on the Elliott Bay trail.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Sure, if you weigh as much as a bus. But then I question your ability to fit between the bollards at intersections. Otherwise, please not be antisocial and just use the sidewalk.

      • Law Abider says:

        As these people above me have mentioned: asphalt is not flexible at the scale of human weight. Your shoes, socks, skin, muscle and bones will all flex before the weight of your body causes any flexing of pavement. You could fall off a building onto asphalt and likely not cause any significant pavement flexing.

        Asphalt pavement is referred to as flexible and concrete pavement as rigid, but only in the sense of determining how pavement will wear and fail over repeated and long term usage by multi-ton trucks. I can see some naive person picking up on the “flexible” portion of asphalt and thinking it would be better on their body and then spreading their misinformation.

      • Josh says:

        Asphalt and concrete definitely do feel different to runners, though it has nothing to do with the sort of flexibility experienced with large vehicles.

        A brushed concrete surface is very uniform and has “tooth” to it, so the impact and grip of a shoe sole is nearly instantaneous across the surface. (The “tooth” aspect is strongest on new concrete that’s not subject to vehicle traffic.) Asphalt pavement has a less-even surface and no “tooth” to it.

        If you were running in hard-soled dress shoes, you wouldn’t notice a difference, but the softer and grippier your running shoes, the more difference there is between the surfaces.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        What does flex significantly under the load of a runner is that rubber running track stuff they use on…running tracks. However, it doesn’t hold up to vehicular traffic, which is why places that have running tracks will get mad at you if you ride your bike on one. And ask the Oregon DOT how that worked out for them repaving the Beaverton-Tigard Freeway #217 in 1996. Spoiler alert: It failed so badly the ruts were worn through to the gravel in just a few months.

        Seriously, the next person who tries to claims that asphalt is softer for runners is the next person I ask to buy pot from…

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Regarding the “tooth”, sounds like a reason to get a different pair of running shoes in that case. Though not sure who would go running in dress shoes, the leather soles would make that a sketch factor no matter what the surface.

      • Law Abider says:

        @Josh: Placebo effect at play, otherwise state the research to back it up.

        Source: Been running almost daily for 15 years, plus a little internet perusing, just in case there’s something I wasn’t aware of.

      • Josh says:

        Skid resistance testing of pavement is common both for automotive safety and for ADA compliance. The greater slip-resistance of concrete is even a standard selling point for the Concrete Paving Association.

      • Al Dimond says:

        BEGIN RANT

        I’ve been running for a long time, and I’ve never cared one bit about the difference between asphalt and concrete. Fix your form and your shoes, then come back and complain about the surface.

        I wouldn’t run down bike lanes on arterials even if I believed asphalt was better because that would be selfish. I especially wouldn’t do it contraflow like some of the mindless jerks on Dexter these days. However, I often run right down the middle of side streets to avoid the terrible sight lines and blocked crosswalks typical on Seattle’s sidewalks. I’m typically running about as fast as it’s safe to drive on those streets, but I do defer to traffic… except on greenways, where it’s a runner’s patriotic duty to use the road.

        On most parts of the Burke that try to separate pedestrians and cyclists both the pedestrian and bike halves are insufficiently wide, and the separation markings are, rightfully, ignored. Near UW the overall width is wider… but the sidewalk portion isn’t all that long, and it gets sort of goofy near intersections, so I wouldn’t really blame any runners, particularly eastbound, that stayed off the sidewalk and continued to use basic trail etiquette.

        Basic trail etiquette is simple: keep right, pass left, but only after yielding to oncoming traffic and checking for anyone already overtaking. Maybe call passes or ring a bell, but if the trail is so busy that it’s getting tedious don’t bother. It’s OK to use headphones or stare at your phone, but only as long as you’re going slow enough that you never have to pass anyone. Be careful around kids, dogs, and wobbly folk. If you’re an adult human in charge of kids teach them basic etiquette. If you’re an adult human in charge of dogs keep them under control. If you’re an adult human that can’t or won’t take responsibility for your kids, dogs, or self, then avoid busy trails — there are only a few that are really important bike routes, and on these trails efficient transportation ought to be prioritized. That isn’t the official rule, but the official rules for our trails are stupid because they weren’t created by a process that would allow for sensible ones.

        END RANT

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Basic trail etiquette means using the bicycle facilities if you’re on a bicycle and using the pedestrian facilities if you’re walking or jogging. Jogging in the bicycle lanes is a selfish thing on trails.

      • Al Dimond says:

        @Paul: And what if the bike and pedestrian facilities are both so narrow that you can’t pass by someone going the opposite direction, giving a polite amount of space, without crossing the line? That’s exactly the situation on the paint-separated parts of the Burke in Fremont, and as someone that’s used them on foot and on bike many times, I know they work much better when everyone disregards the markings. Try to follow them and you alternate between crowding people and crossing over the mode-separating lines, which forces everyone to have to look out for incursions into their path from all directions just about everywhere! In the end you end up with the total insanity of Green Lake’s main paved path: when it’s busy it’s not really possible to follow the posted rules, but nobody agrees what standards of behavior to substitute for them, so it devolves into chaos (i.e. lots of people mill around slowly in no discernible pattern, and faster movers mostly go clockwise and dodge and weave as necessary).

        It’s pretty common for bike and pedestrian infrastructure to be nonsensical as designed. Often it’s squeezed into too small a space, designed by engineers that don’t really understand bike and pedestrian issues, designed based on lousy standards, or designed based on reasonable general standards that don’t apply to particular local conditions. Would you tell a cyclist going downhill on Harvard toward the U Bridge, or on Fremont Ave toward the Fremont Bridge, to ride in the door zone just because someone painted a bike lane there? What about the infamous Dick’s bike lane? An average SBB comment troll has forgotten more about cycling than everyone involved creating those bike lanes will ever know. That’s what the Burke’s half-assed mode separation in Fremont is like. Maybe there’s enough room to make it work in the new UW sections, and on the Westlake Cycletrack. Maybe. I hope so.

        There are good rules, there are silly rules, and then there are rules too dumb to even try to follow. If we didn’t have so much infrastructure governed by the last type of rule, I really believe we wouldn’t see so many people violate the first two types. As much as I cringe at some of the stuff some people do to avoid slowing down, it’s not hard to see how some elements of our most popular bike routes get people in that mindset.

    • JW says:

      I rarely see pedestrian/cyclist separation on trails work, as pedestrians either don’t notice or disregard the directions. And of course, runners prefer the non-concrete surface. I like how the city painted the cycle track on Mercer green. I’d like to try that on the BG to see if it keeps pedestrians out of the cycle lanes. I bet it does.

      • Al Dimond says:

        The Mercer underpass works because the pedestrian and bike spaces are both wide enough for their purposes. The same is true on the main loop of New York’s Central Park without the green paint or vertical separation (though of course people rampantly disregard the traffic signals because it’s New York).

    • Ben P says:

      @kirk
      Haha, they should put up a few signs letting people know the flex of both surfaces is negligible.

    • Stuart Strand says:

      You think it’s bad on an upright, try seeing around the foliage on a recumbent! Traffic entering the trail should yield. Paint Yeild or Stop on the pavement.

      • NoSpin says:

        Better yet, install a significant ‘speed bump’ at places where traffic enters the trail to force a slow-down. It won’t prevent clueless pedestrians from wandering out into traffic but will help prevent cyclists from doing so.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Don’t even need a speed bump. Just a few shallow thermoplastic stripes that don’t even need to be as high as a Botts dot. Or the way that’s handled in Oklahoma (since we tend to use white thermoplastic for rumble strips on streets and highways leading up to bad intersections), just make it look like they’re rumble strips and not even actually have raised ones.

      • Josh says:

        The new Westlake sidepath has good examples of how to warn cyclists to slow down before conflict points — multiple transverse rumble stripes before pedestrian crossings.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Agreed, Josh. The rumble stripes (or even the illusion of them) tends to be pretty effective. Even for primarily mixed use infrastructure, like residential streets, I’m generally against speed bumps versus other potential treatments like a choke point or chicane. Bumps and tables tend to have a bigger deterrent effect towards cycling and skaters than motorists (who will hit them just as fast or faster out of spite). Little bit harder for larger vehicles like cars and trucks to argue with a chicane or choke point (or to a lesser extent, cushions) whereas it doesn’t negatively impact emergency vehicles like fire trucks or ambulances.

  3. EA says:

    Looking forward to a long overdue rebuilding of the east half in 5-9 years!

    • Curi says:

      Ugh, I certainly hope it doesn’t take that long. I noticed many of the bumps have been spray painted, but I’m not sure if that’s a sign of construction about to happen, or simply guerilla safety marking at work.

  4. asdf2 says:

    About the Pronto Station at the UW Station – I assume that means that the existing Montlake Triangle station will move there, since it would be unprecedented for a system so sparse to have two stations so close together. Such a move would be good for people accessing the light rail, but not so good for people trying to get to the UW Med Center or the bus stops along Pacific St.

    I still think the best compromise is to put the station at the top of the Montlake Triangle, splitting the distance between the light rail station (via the bridge) and the UW Med Center (via the crosswalks). Besides being within a very short walk of both destinations, it would also avoid the need to ride a Pronto bike uphill to leave the station (the uphill climb is much more easily done on foot, without the bike, where stairs, escalators, and elevators exist as options – the bike can be picked up at the top of the hill).

    • Ben P says:

      Haha, like that’ll ever happen. For the well payed people running the UW, looks trumps utility. They where sold something from a model (aerial view) and are selling to people who take campus tours. I’d be pretty surprised if they sullied the grass under their mountain view with a rack, bicycle or otherwise.

  5. Donna McBain Evans says:

    I was there around 1pm today (aug 8) and the trail was still closed with no evidence it was changing soon. Sure you have your dates right???

  6. Stuart Strand says:

    Great to ride the open trail north this afternoon. What a relief to not have to negotiate the excruciating 15th and Stevens intersection and its eastern approach on the detour route. What luck that there were apparently no serious bike accident on the detour during the last couple of years. Perhaps in the interest of transportation engineering science the UW transportation office will provide the community with data on accidents on the 2+ year detour route.

  7. Andrew Squirrel says:

    Yeah, just to echo others here, the blind intersection at Rainier Vista is most definitely going to end poorly now that the trail is officially open. It was the first thing that I noticed after construction was completed.
    I don’t have a solution to mitigate the problem but its something we definitely needs to address before someone is injured or, god forbid, killed.

  8. PDXTransplant says:

    I am new to Seattle for a job at UWMC. I am an experienced cyclist who didn’t mind the detour around the construction as I rode east to work, partially because when I arrived at UWMC I was in the correct lane of traffic to get to the bike parking area near the bike lockers to the R of the emergency entrance. As the trail stands now, no matter which direction you come from (worse from the N/E), there are clunky connections between the BGT and bike-friendly access to the hospital. I always feel like a jerk in the mornings using the cross-walk and disrupting the pedestrian flow, but there doesn’t seem to be a better approach. Does anyone have a suggestion or know if there are any plans to address this?

  9. Pingback: The Morning News: University of Washington Station Is The Epicenter of Seattle's Transportation Future, Turbulence on a Motherfucking Plane - Seattle Events Live

  10. Pingback: Gone Bikin’: A short tour of UW’s remade stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail | Seattle Bike Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *