Trail supporters, opponents and city leaders strike a deal to complete the Ballard Missing Link

Councilmember Mike O'Brien, a longtime trail supporter, and Warren Aakervik, the owner of Ballard Oil and a trail appellant, shook hands during the press conference.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a longtime trail supporter, and Warren Aakervik, the owner of Ballard Oil and a trail appellant, shook hands during the press conference.

UPDATE: Construction on the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail will break ground by winter 2018, Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday during a press conference flanked by both longtime trail supporters and business owners who have fought the trail for decades.

“I’m kinda all smiles,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who in addition to representing Ballard’s district on the Council has been a longtime supporter of completing the trail. “I gotta check myself a little bit, because it’s not done yet,” O’Brien continued. “I know there are advocates who will say, ‘We’ve been here before.'”

But at the press conference, anyway, Cascade Bicycle Club and other longtime trail advocates were smiling, too. After decades of delays, lawsuits, big public meetings and a horrible number of broken bones, the path to building the trail finally seems free of major opposition.

“When designed properly, [the city] will create a safe facility next to a major truck street,” said Warren Aakervik, the owner of Ballard Oil and one of the longtime trail opponents who sued to delay the project to this point. “Hopefully we can move forward and make something safe.”

“I too have been working in this project for a decade, so it’s nice to see that soon I’ll be able move onto something else,” said Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association, another party to the lawsuits.

Mayor Murray hailed the agreement as an end to the project’s endless limbo.

“Today’s major announcement ends 20 years of lawsuits, studies and counter studies,” he said. The final work on the massive court-mandated Environmental Impact Study for the trail connection is due out in May, but a new community design group will begin working sooner than that with the hopes of having a completed design plan ready in the fall so construction can start in early 2018.

The community design group will work “much in the way we worked collaboratively on the Westlake bike trail,” said Mayor Murray. Following that basic model, a stakeholder group will meet regularly to go essentially foot-by-foot through the design plans and provide detailed feedback. The final decision is ultimately up to the city, but the design group is a way to get very specific concerns addressed and make sure as many people are on board with the final product as possible.

But the situation in Ballard is much different than Westlake. For one, the Westlake process was created to find a way to avoid going to court over the bikeway plans. In this case, nearly all legal appeal routes have been exhausted over more than a decade of battles and great cost to both the appellant group, Cascade Bicycle Club and the city (not to mention all the people who crashed and paid their part in pain, blood and broken bones). The appellants could sue the final EIS, but their chances of winning would likely be slim.

I asked Mayor Murray whether this agreement means everyone involved has agreed not to sue. After all, if Westlake is the model, then it’s really a possible warning. After lots of delay and community design meetings, super-yacht marina Nautical Landing sued anyway. They only dropped their lawsuit after the city redesigned the trail to give more space for parking, creating a short pinch point where the bikeway narrows to eight feet.

But the bikeway opened.

“I feel pretty good that we have a track record [of getting lawsuits dropped],” Mayor Murray said of previous stakeholder processes like this one.

missing-link-routeThe agreed-upon route mostly follows the South Shilshole route that has drawn overwhelming public support in every public feedback round over many years. This route would follow alongside the rail line as the trail currently does through much of the Frelard industrial area.

The biggest change, which seems to be the compromise that allowed this deal to go through, is to curve the trail up 24th Ave NW to Market Street instead of following along the rail line next to Ballard Oil and other businesses. The trail will then go along the south side of Market until it reaches the current trail terminus at the Ballard Locks.

The result is a slight extra climb up to Market and a slightly longer route, but it has its own benefits and may avoid some tricky spots along the rail corridor. Maybe someday the rail corridor will gets its own makeover (which could be amazing all on its own), but for now it stays the way it is.

This route option includes a redesign of Market Street west of 24th, which currently has two general purpose lanes in each direction. This stretch is in great need of a safety redesign, so that’s a wonderful side-effect of this choice. The project could make the street safer for everyone and make it much easier to cross on foot. But as with other safety projects in the city, it has the potential to draw new opposition.

The details of the route still have a long way to go, especially now that there’s a community design element to add to the process. And the devil’s in the details with projects like this. It’s not over yet.

You can read more details on the announcement in this press release from the Mayor’s Office.

Original post:

Jessica Dickinson tells her story of breaking her arm in two places in a 2014 crash on the Missing Link. She still experiences pain. Two people are injured every month in bike crashes on the Missing Link, on average.

Jessica Dickinson tells her story of breaking her arm in two places in a 2014 crash on the Missing Link. She still experiences pain. Two people are injured every month in bike crashes on the Missing Link, on average.

Mayor Ed Murray will “unveil a framework” to complete the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail during a 2:30 p.m. press event today (Tuesday) at the Ballard Locks with Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Rob Johnson, Blake Trask of Cascade Bicycle Club and unnamed business owners and community advocates.

The Seattle Department of Transportation has narrowed the route options down to either the South Shilshole route — which the public prefers overwhelmingly, drawing over 90 percent of the thousands of public responses received during recent years of outreach — or a hybrid route that would include sections of the North Shilshole route — an option that has so far received neither strong public support nor support from some business appellants who have worked for many years to stop this trail by political and legal means.

Councilmember O’Brien recently held a press event calling on the mayor to make a decision on the preferred route for the trail, saying he prefers the South Shilshole route and hopes the city could finish design and break ground by the end of 2017.

Following O’Brien’s push, SDOT presented their latest concepts to the Council’s Transportation Committee (watch). Officials said a route decision was imminent.

On average, two people biking are hospitalized due to crashes every month along the Ballard Missing Link. The City Council first approved the South Shilshole route in 2003, but it has been tied up in pubic outreach, courts and environmental review ever since.

We will be at the press event and will update this post later today. Stay tuned.

Details from the mayor’s office:

Tomorrow, Mayor Ed Murray will be joined by City Council, business owners, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and community leaders to unveil a framework to move forward on completing the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

WHO:
Mayor Ed Murray
Councilmember Mike O’Brien
Councilmember Rob Johnson
Blake Trask, Cascade Bicycle Club
Business owners
Community advocates

WHAT:
Press conference

WHEN:
Tuesday, February 28
2:30 p.m.

WHERE:
Ballard Locks (Eastern section of parking lot)
3015 Northwest 54th Street
Seattle, WA 98107

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47 Responses to Trail supporters, opponents and city leaders strike a deal to complete the Ballard Missing Link

  1. Gary Anderson says:

    Why is this such a hard decision to make? Announce a “framework?” Looks to me like it’s not going to be the much preferred South Shilshole route. It’s going to be an ugly alternative with significant bike/pedestrian vehicle interactions and collisions.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      Maybe they’re asking some Java developers to complete the Missing Link with an AbstractMultiUsePathFrameworkFactoryProvider.

    • Gary Anderson says:

      Looks like the agreed upon alignment is a reasonable compromise. Will follow the south side of Shilshole up to Market then on the south side of Market (presumably removing parking?) west to the locks. Would have preferred the full South Shilshole but I think this alignment can be done well. Design details are yet to come. Will be interesting to see the design of the trail at the intersection of Market and 24th Ave NW.

  2. Damon says:

    “Business owners” are involved in this announcement, eh? I wonder who those are. If it’s any of the usual suspects, changing their tunes, then maybe this announcement will be meaningful. Maybe they’ll pinkie-promise not to sue and hold things up again. Until 2:30, I can dream!

  3. Steve says:

    Oh, a ‘framework,’ sounds like my fluff to me. Like the ‘city center’ plan. Blah blah, announce when you are ready to start building, stop with these show events. You got your move levy passed, so put it to use and get something done or I look forward to voting for your opponent in November.

  4. Kirk says:

    Here’s the official press release. Aakervik and Wasserman both approved. Nerdrum didn’t comment, he’s probably going to continue suing. Continuing on 54th would have been the best path. Hopefully the city has the foresight to keep that railway right of way to use for the trail once these dinosaurs are fully extinct.

    SEATTLE (February 28, 2017) – Today, Mayor Ed Murray along with Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Rob Johnson, Ballard business owners, and bicycle and pedestrian advocates, announced that a framework agreement has been reached to move forward on completing the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

    “After years of disagreement, we have a path forward to finally complete the ‘missing link’ of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Mayor Murray. “Bicyclists and pedestrians will no longer need to weave, dodge, or hold their breath while navigating through Ballard and maritime businesses along the water will maintain access to the roads they depend on. Today’s announcement highlights our collaborative effort to complete the trail, making the Burke-Gilman safer and more accessible for all.”

    As the City finishes the environmental review process, the framework calls for stakeholders to work together on the design elements of a preferred alternative route that would complete the “missing link” with a marked, dedicated trail for pedestrians and cyclists. This proposed trail would run along Market Street between the Ballard Locks and 24th Avenue Northwest, then turn on to Shilshole Avenue Northwest and run along the south-side of the street. The existing trail east of the Ballard Bridge, along Northwest 45th Street, will be improved to allow for better access for businesses and safer travel for bicyclists and pedestrians. The City expects the final environmental impact study to be released in May.

    “The community has been working on a safe completion of the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail for years and it is great to be moving one step closer to construction,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “It is also great that we have even more consensus around the best routing.”

    “I am thrilled that we have an agreement to finally fix the missing link and to connect the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle). “We all benefit when residents, workers and goods can travel our streets safely and efficiently be they in a delivery truck, on a bus, walking or biking. This is a great success for bike safety, trail access, and Seattle’s economy.”

    “This is a great announcement for people who use the Burke-Gilman Trail and for nearby businesses,” said Warren Aakervik, Ballard business owner. “The City of Seattle, businesses, and all the stakeholders are committed to a trail that is safe for recreation and commuting and allows for predictable access for trucks using the corridor. Our maritime businesses are dependent on easy access to the water and roads, and this agreement gets us that. This is a win for everyone.”

    “To say we are elated is a vast understatement,” said Blake Trask, Senior Policy Director of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “This project will benefit generations. We are grateful to the many parties, including local Ballard businesses, for coming together, listening to one another, and committing to building a trail that is safe and predictable for everyone.”

    “This plan balances the needs of maritime industrial businesses and the community,” said Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association. “We look forward to working with the City, bicycling and pedestrian advocates, and Ballard residents in a manner that meets the needs of everyone that uses this corridor and maintains the vitality of the Ballard maritime industry.”

  5. SGG says:

    Seems like cyclists will still use 54th.

    This announcement needs a map.

    • Brian says:

      I gotta say, 54th as it exists today is not a route I’d willingly take, especially the section between 28th and 26th Ave. Granted, it’s changed a bit with construction work for the new Nordic Heritage Museum (maybe for the worse?), but go check the Street View imagery. It’s kind of amazing it could still be considered a street at that point.

      • O says:

        Yeah I wasn’t aware anybody ever rode there…I always cut up to market at 24th. I’ve walked 54th and never considered it as a legitimate route.

      • Kirk says:

        54th isn’t really a route, especially when 54th westbound ends and there’s only rail bed and huge rocks. I take that sometimes with a mountain bike only.

    • Brian says:

      SGG – right now the construction zone behind the new museum has really narrower the path on 54th. That and the amazing amount of dog poop would make it a nasty place to ride a bike.

  6. Steven Lorenza says:

    Murray does nothing and takes credit for everything. The worst.

  7. DOUG. says:

    This isn’t the worst route, but it sounds like Ballard Oil won.

    How will the transition from Shilshole to 24th work? How many driveways along 24th will I have to navigate, riding the wrong way westbound?

    This is likely better than nothing, but was it worth a 20 year wait? We’ll see.

  8. Dave says:

    it is really annoying that the businesses that obstructed this for 20 years basically were rewarded by getting the trail off of the railbed where it belongs

  9. Damon says:

    As a Ballard resident and daily Missing Link rider, I’m pleased. This proposal will probably serve me slightly better than the rail ROW would have. I do worry about the Shilshole-24th intersection design, and about how the B-G will integrate with bus stops along Market. On the whole, though, I’m happy.

    I’d be less happy if I were primarily a recreational user who just wanted the best, safest route to Golden Gardens. But at least (maybe, hopefully) we’ll finally get the connection!

    • Brian says:

      +1

      I’m a Ballard resident and I actually advocated for this alignment. Why hide the trail in an industrial back-alley when I can have it drop me off at the front door of businesses on Market that I already visit regularly by bike.

      I agree that the 24th Shilshole transition is tricky but it was something that had to be addressed either way to deal with all the riders who are already using 24th’s bike lanes.

      • William says:

        I am in agreement too and the frustrating thing is that we probably could have had this compromise 15 years ago

  10. Hannah says:

    The route looks good to me. I worried about having the trail cross streets with commuter traffic, and that’s not an issue here. Can’t tell exactly how it will work west of 24th, but there might be a benefit to having the trail pass by businesses along that stretch.

    I’m also happy and a bit surprised that it’s a joint announcement. That’s a great outcome for Ballard.

  11. George Harvey says:

    It’s not perfect (I’d prefer the trail stay next to the water and stay off Market) BUT it’s doable and a lot better than what we have now.

  12. Damon says:

    I’m actively looking forward to whining about how long the construction is taking and how inadequate the alternate route is. That’ll be *fun* whining!

  13. Ben says:

    Another year , I hope I don’t die.

  14. asdf2 says:

    Assuming that the city is willing to take a lane of traffic from Market St. to build the trail, I think this can work. At 24th/Market, it looks like thru bike traffic shouldn’t have to cross the road at all, just like a pedestrian on the sidewalk today can turn from 24th to Market without needing to cross the road. There are a couple of driveways to cross, but a trail along the Shilshole alignment would need to cross those same driveways anyway, so not much difference.

    • Kirk says:

      The real challenge will be down towards the locks by the Lockspot tavern. The roadway is super narrow there.

  15. SGG says:

    So this gets the South side of Market? That could help keep the crossings to a minimum if done correctly. The businesses on the south side won’t want to lose parking.

    • Damon says:

      Not too many driveways, but the ones by the climbing gym are fairly high-traffic — though some of that traffic currently is people turning around in order to park on the south side, which won’t be a thing any more.

      There’s an EB bus stop at 28th and Market, too… I assume people will have to cross the trail to get on and off the bus, in the Roosevelt style or something like it.

  16. AW says:

    Ideally we would have had the trail on 54th and not market but as part of this plan the city should improve 54th and make it passable for bikes. Most bikers would choose that way anyway. That said, I think that a good trail could absolutely be built on Market street. If you look at the bike routes in Amsterdam where they parallel major urban streets, this can be done.

    However I do not think we should get ahead of ourselves. The business owners are going to fight and perhaps sue over every inch of the trail.

    • Ballard Resident says:

      BGT is a mixed use trail that is open to bikes. It’s not a cycle track. Wish everyone would understand this.

      54th is a good mountain bike route but not great for cars, trucks or road bikes. The city should fix it and have Ballard Oil pay for the improvements.

  17. Jason says:

    Which business gets to play ‘Nautical Landing’ and start a new lawsuit this summer because they ‘weren’t part of the agreement.’

  18. Christopher Burke says:

    The bike trail is still going to have to cross the tracks somewhere, probably around the 15th Ave NW bridge where it does now. I’m glad there is finally a plan to go forward, but I don’t see how it will result in fewer broken bones. Am I missing something?

  19. Kirk says:

    It does suck that this route doesn’t follow the rail route as it should. The small climb and transition to southbound on Market would be fine and there’s plenty of room to build a fine MUT. However, once the street turns to 54th and onto the existing Burke Gilman Trail will be extremely challenging. It’s currently about 1.5 lanes wide with narrow sidewalks and extremely high pedestrian traffic due to the locks. And I’m not convinced we’ve seen the end to the obstructionism, especially from Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel.
    But I’m optimistic and looking forward to the completion of the Missing Link. I would hope the city would consider utilizing the rail route in the future. This happened in the early days of the BGT when it used to follow NW Northlake Way before they switched it to the rail line.

  20. Law Abider says:

    This “deal” is going to backfire horribly. After how many years of public comment, where the public OVERWHELMINGLY (90%+) chose to send the trail down 54th, next to the tracks, as was originally planned 30 years ago, the City is going to completely ignore that. When they go to take either street parking or a traffic lane from Market Street, there is going to be a shitstorm of epic proportions and you can bet there will be brand new set of lawsuits from business along Market Street and anger from the public.

    In the end, who is going to bear the brunt of the public anger? Definitely not the obstructionists, who basically win the war, after a decade of fighting and literally being days away from an overwhelming defeat. Nope, it’s going to be some SDOT and most the cycling community. Murray is nothing more than a Benedict Arnold to the cycling community.

    The cycling community may have won the popular vote, but the obstructionists won the electoral vote. This will not break ground before 2020.

  21. kommishoner says:

    My only gripe is that when they release these plans (whether it’s the multiple proposals or the final decision) they always put the route on a pdf map, instead of using an interactive platform like Google Maps so that viewers can zoom in or use Street View. Drives me nuts.

  22. anthony says:

    Good for you, Warren! Congrats on the victory even though it may be short lived. Lets hope this never breaks ground.

  23. Pingback: Seattle mayor: We have a route for Burke-Gilman Trail missing link » Biking Bis

  24. Brian says:

    I am very happy that something has actually happened with the Missing Link that appears to be positive. The south side route along Shilshole is great. BUT the idea of running a multi use trail up 24th to Market and then over to the Locks is really not a good idea.
    I suggest that if you are interested you might want to take a look at the parcel of land behind where the new Nordic Heritage Museum is being built. It is Parcel 1125039104.
    Use the King County Parcel viewer to see that it is currently owned by the Nordic Heritage Museum but if you look at the Parcel Data it shows that in 2009 it was owned by the City of Seattle.
    That strip of land is crucial to the construction of a multi use trail along 54th Street. I would love to know what has happened in the ownership of this parcel.
    As for the proposed route up to Market: the sidewalk on the west side of 24th from the tracks up to Market St. currently has some head in parking spaces and a narrow sidewalk, and a large steel utility pole and an electrical power box right at the corner of Market. This probably is not a problem but once the multi use trail reaches this point there is also a right hand turn lane from east bound Market onto south bound 24th, and a heavily used pedestrian crossing.
    Once the trail gets to this point and turns left towards the Locks there is a wide side walk and a wide planting strip, however there are many, many trees that will have to be removed. I believe the plan is to make this section into parallel parking on both sides of Market and one traffic lane each way with a turn lane in the center (correct me if I am wrong).
    Between 24th and 26th there are currently no driveways but there are a number of walk up businesses. At 26th there is a driveway down to the water and 54th. From 26th to 28th there are a few walkup businesses and then there is the new Nordic Museum a “modern 57,000-sq. ft. museum and cultural center”, according to the plans there will be a large entrance to this building and somewhere there will be a parking garage. http://nordicmuseum.org/future Probably a future of lots of foot and vehicle traffic.
    And currently the sidewalk in this area is not very wide. Plus there is currently a bus stop right at 28th.
    From 28th to the Locks there are many walk up businesses and driveway to a parking lot at Habitude. There are two entrances to the parking lot at Trident Foods on what is 54th Street at that point.There is another driveway at Stone Gardens into a parking lot also the Lock Spot has parking right in front of their restaurant on 54th Street. Then we have the entrance to the Locks and the marine services at the marina.
    To me this looks way more complicated and expensive than continuing the trail on 54th from 24th all the way to the locks. But what the heck do I know, I just live here in Ballard and walk this area often. I just walked along Market from 24th to 28th this morning and saw first hand how this could be a pain in the neck.
    The area at the Lock Spot is very narrow

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      It’s not great today, I agree. But this project will come with significant investment to fix these issues.

      In fact, improving the awful sidewalk and crosswalks near the Lock Spot is one of the big potential benefits of this option. This will likely include changing the way that parking area works by the Locks to make the driveway work better. As for the street trees, I imagine they will try to preserve trees unless absolutely not possible. I suppose those will all be details worked out this this design committee process.

      • Brian says:

        You are doing a lot of “supposing” and “imagine” ing there Tom!

        I still would like to know why the City of Seattle seemingly “gave” that crucial parcel of land along 54th to the Nordic Museum in 2009. That was when they were in the courts over this trail.

      • Kevin in Ballard says:

        Brian – somewhere back in ancient history the city sold the 20 foot wide chunk of property to the owners of the Fentron property – it is ironic, but because the plan proposed in 2003 included use of this 20 foot wide swath, and required an easement on private property, an EIS was required. It was that initial EIS report that triggered the cascade of lawsuits.

        When Fentron sold the property to the Nordic Heritage Museum, it included the 20 foot wide swath. The City negotiated an easement with the museum to use the swath in 2009 (when they finally had a trail design and $$$). The NHM anticipated the trail along the rail row when they designed their building.

        I don’t think the City has actually owned the 20 foot wide swath since they sold it way back when…

  25. Brian says:

    Kevin – thanks for explaining that situation, it still looks odd when I look at the Sales History at the bottom of the Parcel Data page:
    http://blue.kingcounty.com/Assessor/eRealProperty/Detail.aspx?ParcelNbr=1125039104

  26. Brian says:

    After reading this article from 2007 :

    http://www.ballardnewstribune.com/2007/01/09/news/exciting-new-life-ahead-forssblad

    I started to think that maybe the Nordic Heritage Museum might just consider having the trail run behind the building on 54th Street and then with all the money they have they could create some interesting space for an exhibition of Cycling In Scandinavia!

    • Ballard Resident says:

      I hope they have good bike racks because the current location doesn’t. I had to lock to a railing. Kind of surprised me.

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