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Large Burke-Gilman closure starts June 15, county and state say take a bus or drive – UPDATED

If you have been in denial about the upcoming closure of the Burke-Gilman Trail from the Seattle city limits all the way to Log Boom Park in Kenmore, it’s soul-searching time. The closure is real, and it starts June 15.

The official bicycle detour route has still not been finalized or released pending approval by the city of Lake Forest Park, but Cascade Bicycle Club posted this unofficial detour route (thanks Jonathan for making it into a Google Map):

View Burke-Gilman Proposed Detour in a larger map

For those who are not yet aware, King County is going to renovate several miles of the Burke-Gilman Trail from the Seattle border to Log Boom Park in Kenmore this summer. This is one of the oldest sections of the trail, and it requires significant foundation work in order to be repaved and brought back up to standards. Due to limited access points for work trucks, the county’s only option is to close this section of the trail entirely. It is not scheduled to open again until November.

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In a press release, the county cautioned against riding on 522 (Bothell Way) as a detour route.

“Bicycle commuters are strongly discouraged from riding along State Route 522,” says the release. “This poses a major public safety concern and is not recommended.” In fact, the county is urging people who bike to “use alternative modes of transportation” during the closure.

“I know that’s a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow,” said Doug Williams, Media Relations Coordinator for King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. He noted that there are several buses that go down 522, but acknowledged that only a couple bikes can fit on each bus. But he cautions that riding on 522 is “a recipe for disaster.”

“It’s not your average road, it’s a state highway,” said Williams. “We just want everybody to be safe and get through this.”

Looking at Cascade’s detour route above, the most tempting section to ride on 522 is between NE 165th and NE 145th. There is a bus-only lane in the southbound direction, but the shoulders are not wide and car traffic will be moving quickly. It is legal for you to ride on 522, but the state and county are basically saying that you’re on your own should you choose that route (I am not sure if it is legal for you to ride in the bus only lane, but I am working on finding that out and will update when I have an answer).

UPDATE: Jamie Holter at WSDOT said it is legal to ride in the bus lane, though discouraged: “Today it is legal to ride in the bus lane but strongly discouraged. We will closely monitor SR 522 and make a determination whether to keep it open for bicyclists.”

Even riding the detour will require crossing 522 at “a signed intersection” and riding several blocks on 145th (not the friendliest street for biking). It would turn a 5-mile, flat bike ride into a 6.7-mile, far hillier ride with traffic stops and highway crossings.

A safe, temporary bicycle space on 522, even if it is just for this 0.8 mile stretch, would have made this detour far more practical for the thousands of people who use this section of the trail every day. The unofficial detour would route people riding bikes 12 or so blocks out of the way (six there, six back) to go around Acacia Memorial Park. That’s 0.7 miles longer than simply hopping on 522. While I personally would take the longer route to avoid stress, there will likely be plenty of people who take to the highway. Instead of providing a far-out-of-the-way detour, then giving cyclists a warning not to use this straight, legal roadway just because its design is dangerously motor-vehicle-centric is not a safe or realistic way to approach this problem.

The county did consider a bicycle route on 522, but “it was met with some some fairly significant opposition” from the state, said Williams. This lack of accommodation is not really the kind of thing you would expect from the most bike-friendly state in the union.

This 0.8-mile stretch of Bothell Way has six lanes of motor vehicle traffic (two general purpose lanes in each direction, a center turn lane and a southbound bus/right turn lane). Surely a temporary reconfiguration could have provided either bike lanes on each side or a protected two-way facility on one side without causing much headache. Since there is very little traffic making turns towards the Lake from 522, perhaps something a barrier-separated two-way bicycle facility on the east side of 522 would have been a way to fix this whole mess.

There was also talk at one time of running shuttles with bike racks during commute times, but that option is also no longer on the table.

“The shuttle is a no-go,” said Williams.

Considering the project bid came in about $500,000 less than the engineer’s estimate (bid estimate was $3.2 – $3.7 million in January, but the contractor is doing it for $2.69 million), there would seem to be plenty of money to fund a more ambitious detour accommodation to make life easier for those who currently depend on this vital trail for transportation. Urging those who ride to “use alternative modes of transportation” is not appropriate for a region and a state supposedly dedicated to increasing the bicycle mode share, promoting healthy living and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Any alternative mode of transportation will also be a significant financial burden on any daily bicycle commuter. Taking the bus will cost each daily peak-time bike commuter $500 over the course of the closure ($5 round trip at peak rates five days a week for 20 weeks). That is more money than I and many low-budget bicyclists have ever spent on their bicycles. Driving, if the commuter happens to already own and insure a car, is even more expensive and will increase congestion on 522 (ostensibly the reason the state did not want to allow a bicycle facility on the road in the first place).

It’s time for a change in our region’s construction-mitigation culture. Bicycles are a serious mode of transportation, not an afterthought. The state would never even consider a road project that would cost every daily driver $500 extra for one summer, so why would they consider the same for people riding bicycles?

I am awaiting a response from the state and will update.

From King County:

Work is about to get under way on a much-needed project to improve public safety along the oldest and narrowest stretch of King County’s Burke-Gilman Trail through Lake Forest Park.

A two-mile-long stretch of the trail will be closed for construction beginning June 15, from Northeast 145th Street to Logboom Park in Kenmore. King County has established a 24-hour hotline – 206-462-6348 – to provide updated information and to answer any questions about the construction project.

“We are working with the contractor to ensure that the project is completed quickly and the trail is reopened as soon as possible,” said Kevin Brown, King County Parks Director. “Closing the trail to all users is unavoidable, but the work will result in a better and safer trail.”

This major trail redevelopment project has been in planning and design for more than five years, and has received significant input from a Citizens Advisory Group that has broad representation from trail user groups, and local and state governments.

The redevelopment project will improve trail safety, with a new, 12-foot-wide asphalt surface and soft-surface shoulders, enhanced traffic controls, improved sight distances and better drainage. This portion of the trail currently has cracked and uneven asphalt and standing water that can create dangerous conditions for some trail users.

Finding a reasonable detour around the construction zone has been challenging. The trail corridor runs along Lake Washington, with steep hills, a fragmented road and sidewalk system and busy State Route 522 on the upland side.

A detour has been identified, but not yet finalized. The detour route is approximately 6.7 miles long and requires crossing State Route 522 at a signed intersection. Signs identifying the detour are being installed, and a detailed description of the detour route will be posted at www.kingcounty.gov/burkegilmantrail as soon as it is available.

Bicyclists who use this portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail as part of their daily commute are encouraged to use alternate modes of transportation during the trail closure period.

Three Metro and one Sound Transit bus routes provide service along this corridor every three minutes during commute times; all with triple bike racks.

Bicycle commuters are strongly discouraged from riding along State Route 522. This poses a major public safety concern and is not recommended.

Contractor J.R. Hayes and Sons, Inc. will do the trail redevelopment work at a cost of $2.69 million. The project is funded by the 2008-2013, voter-approved Proposition 2 Parks Expansion Levy and Real Estate Excise Tax funds.

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38 responses to “Large Burke-Gilman closure starts June 15, county and state say take a bus or drive – UPDATED”

  1. JAT

    What is now the bus only lane on 522 was formerly a fantastic shoulder and excellent bike route. (I’m not going to bother to rant against sprawl and how great this place was inthe old days – oops, I just did…) I know that the bus only lanes on 15th Ave W in Interbay is also the bike lane and that it drives (some) bus drivers nuts (at rush hour) which sort of exemplifies Seattle’s half-baked approach.

    As for this detour, it’s not very intuitive, and it’s a hilly area and all the obvious corridors are occupied by roads where many motorists seem to have an unreasonable expectation of speed (and isn’t really that the main ingredient in the “recipe for disaster”?) so good luck…

  2. Nat

    Thanks, Tom, for bringing this important issue to the fore. Your suggestion of a “protected two-way facility on one side” of 522 seems so reasonable. It would only have to run from 165th to 153rd, as it’s possible weave down from 153rd to Riviera Pl, the small road along the lakefront, that (I think) continues past the start of the construction zone.

    Is it too late to convince the powers-that-be to implement this safe and sensible solution?

  3. Steve

    I agree it seems like it would be possible to implement something on 522. Even if it’s simply signage clarifying the use of the transit lane as being ok for bikes.

    Maybe it’s time for a protest ride on 522?

    BTW does anyone else remember the signs on the Burke heading northbound for faster cyclists to use an alternate route? That route starts on Sand Point and eventually ends up directing you onto, wait for it, Bothell Way NE going into Lake Forest Park.

  4. daisy

    I doubt the contractor put 4+ miles of temp fencing in their bid. There will be some ugly interactions with the public as they use the closed section.

    The Interurban is a good alternative for those that can make their way over. Plenty of room on the pathways and good signal detection for bicycles on the designated routes.

    1. Doug Williams

      Daisy: The contractor rebuilding this section of the Burke-Gilman Trail will be installing a six-foot-tall chain-link fence along the entire two miles of the construction site. The trail corridor is too narrow to allow public access to this section once work gets under way.

  5. daisy

    The peak metro fare for 2 zones is $3 one-way $6 round-trip. The ST buses I think are $3.50 one-way.

    The buses already have multi-modal commuters using the available racks starting with the early first run buses.

    The only thing that will hold this current detour up and possibly modifying it is the common sense being displayed by LFP in not immediately signing off on it.

    The foot may still be in the door of SDOT and with the help of LFP force a better safer option.

  6. RachaelL

    So, if 522 is that dangerous, where would a pedestrian go along that route?  It sure looks like more than farms through there on Google’s satellite view. How can such a rode be that dangerous? What’s the speed limit? With a wide enough shoulder I’ve felt fine with 45mph traffic as long as there werent a lot of turns I had to make crossing the traffic (highway 1 in California for example).

    The idea of closing a bike “freeway” for repairs is perfectly reasonable, but not planning a reasonable alternate route is absurd. I love how it’s perfectly okay to take away a bike route for months (approximately one car lane wide, generously) and suggest people change modes. But taking away one lane from a six lane road for the same period over a very shorter section isn’t acceptable. Did the state say why? Congestion? Driver confusion? Expense?

    1. As far as I can tell there is no good place for a pedestrian to go along that corridor until you’re far enough south that 522 has consistent sidewalks. Most of the other roads are either useless for through-travel or don’t have sidewalks. On weekends when the weather is nice I see pedestrians along the Burke in that area, which speaks to their lack of good options. If I recall correctly (I haven’t driven 522 in quite a while) the speed limit is either 40 or 45 when you’re north of the Seattle city limits (I think it’s 35 within Seattle), but it’s typical for traffic to move around 50MPH in spurts, though abrupt slow-downs are pretty common.

  7. So who so we give an earful about over this?

  8. biliruben

    The route they have outlined is absurd.

    Experienced commuters are just going to pretty quickly default to riding on 522. We should provide the means for them to safely do so, or there are going to be bad very bad car/bike interactions, and most likely a tragedy or two.

    Drivers coming in from Maltby are not going to be as charitable or experienced in dealing with bikers as those commuting in from Ballard. Any hiccup in their hellish (if by choice) commute from the hinterlands is going to ignite some tempers.

  9. The ST 522 is $2.50. If you’re coming from out of the county on another ST route then it’s $3.50. Pedestrians are out of luck on that stretch, just as much as cyclists.

    I used to drive the 522 quite frequently and would occasionally come across a lone intrepid cyclist heading up the hill in the bus lane. It’s no big deal if traffic in the other lanes is moving but it is impossible to pass if the traffic is stop and go. I don’t recommend it.

    There seems to be enough space along that stretch, especially with that unused center turn lane, to figure something out. Sadly, this seems to be one more example of how traffic engineers don’t consider bikes to be “real” transportation.

    I’d suggest driving to work in that mess would be a fine way to protest. Put a sign in your car windows that reads “I used to bike to work – The State told me to drive instead” or something along those lines. If enough people did that it wouldn’t take much to turn that stretch into the commute from hell. It’s already pretty bad. If you all organized your commute times into groups it could maximize the effect. It might also serve to bring to light the fact that most cyclists also own cars and pay taxes, etc…

  10. Dave D

    RachaelL said: ‘The idea of closing a bike “freeway” for repairs is perfectly reasonable, but not planning a reasonable alternate route is absurd. I love how it’s perfectly okay to take away a bike route for months (approximately one car lane wide, generously) and suggest people change modes. But taking away one lane from a six lane road for the same period over a very shorter section isn’t acceptable. Did the state say why?”

    Make no mistake: the “Transportation” in “Department of Transportation” stands for cars and trucks. Bicycles, for all of their numerous advantages and benefits, are an afterthought at best. That’s the DOT tradition and the culture, and bureaucrats aren’t going to venture out of their comfort zone-unless it’s even more uncomfortable to try to stay in it.

    Is the spokesperson for the state suggesting that motorists will not follow traffic laws and respect bicyclists rights to use 522? If that’s the case, there needs to be some serious law enforcement presence diverted to that area, and a campaign to educate drivers about co-existing with bicyclists wouldn’t hurt, either. Or are bicyclists supposed to accept their place as second-class citizens whose supposed “rights” don’t really mean anything?

    So here’s an alternate proposal: starting June 15, EVERY SINGLE BURKE-GILMAN TRAIL USER SHOULD USE 522 EXCLUSIVELY.

  11. I commute almost daily on that section on the B-G. This closure is a pain, for sure. The proposed and other detour routes look sketchy at best. I’m not planning on driving or taking the bus for 6 months. The cost of that puts a serious crimp on the one paycheck family – never mind missing the physical and mental health benefits of bike commuting.

    I’m also curious to see what happens on sunny weekends, when the trail is packed with recreational cyclists, skaters and walkers.

    I predict quite a few people take the bus lane on 522, for better or worse.

  12. Riding 522 would be like riding Aurora, only worse because it’s curvy and in some stretches has no shoulder or sidewalk at all. I sure wouldn’t do it alone. Maybe in a pack.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Hmm, perhaps someone should organize daily legal bicycle trains. Could leave on the half hour or something. That actually sounds kind of fun.

    2. Biliruben

      I don’t think aurora is a valid comparison.

      Aurora has far more crossings, faster traffic, and no shoulder to speak of (if you count the bus lane as shoulder).

      That said, I would want the safety of either separation or numbers.

  13. Jeff Weissman

    I work in the Lake Forest Park Town Center. I ride from Lauralhurst in Seattle to Lake Forest Park and back home 3-4 days per week. The shortest and easiest way for me is to ride the BGT to about 105th. Then ride up Sand Point Way to 35th. Turn right on to Lake City Way, which becomes Bothell Way. And then down Bothell Way to work. In the evening either reverse it or ride up Perkins Way to the Interurban Trail. Using the Interurban trail adds about 6-8 miles to my trip. OK on some days and not if I am in a hurry.

    Using the proposed alternate route doesn’t work well for me.

  14. daisy

    If the bus lane is closed to bicyles then that will put people out in the travel lanes. Keep trying SDOT.

  15. KentoSea

    As a daily commuter, another option for the southbound (Kenmore to Seattle) route is heading up 165th in LFP and walking your bike AGAINST traffic in the northbound shoulder to 153rd. It’s a relatively wide shoulder with several private driveways to your left, so even though it’s against traffic, believe it or not it seems relatively safe (I tried it out this weekend). Even though walking your bike seems like an oxymoron, I’m pretty sure riding your bike against traffic is illegal, and it definitely beats the proposed detour route. And we’re only talking 8 blocks so it’s a short walk. And in fact, after ~6 blocks, there is a new sidewalk along the shoulder, so it’s actually only a 5-6 minute walk until the safety of a sidewalk. At 153rd, you can then hop on your bike and head back down toward the trail and wind your way past the construction on Riviera. I think it beats riding uphill along Bothell Way in the southbound bus lane during rush hour and upsetting the daily commuters/bus drivers, while only adding ~5 minutes to your commute. Thoughts on this option?

    1. Bob

      Just a little more info: my auto odometer showed .4 miles from 165th to where the sidewalk begins, and .6 miles total from 165th to 153RD.

  16. John Dwyer

    I have already switched from the BG to 522 and find that my commute is quicker. At first some bus drivers honked but that has tapered off. In the afternoon I am going north and that can be a little wild, but then I catch a break in traffic and I can take the lane. If only they had not done the beautification and wipe out the north bound shoulder it would be a calmer ride.

  17. John

    Don’t forget, tolling on 520 is supposed to start mid-June as well, close to the same time the BGT closes. From my vantage point that adds up to major gridlock on 522 as cagers flock to it to avoid the tolls and bikers flock to it as the only palatable detour. So, not too worried about excessive car speeding — it’ll be gridlocked.

    And isn’t gridlock the only thing our politicians and technocrats have proven competent in creating?

    1. Bruce

      I suspect I-90 will bear the brunt of SOV detours from the 520. If they start relief-tolling on that, it might get interesting on 522.

      1. Bob

        I90 will definitely take some heat off 520, however my hunch is that, for people for whom 520 is just a bit faster than Bothell Way, will start to travel on Bothell Way (unless they’re willing to pay the toll). It depends on their start and end locations. People around or north of the north end of Lake Washington who go the UW or other places a bit north of downtown, I’m thinking will move to Bothell Way, instead of I90.

  18. I agree – I think 522 will be gridlocked when the toll on 520 hits. At least until people get over paying $7.00 a day (correct?) to use the bridge.

    Having traffic gridlocked helps keep the car danger down. However, buses will still move freely in the bus lane – still a sketchy set up at best.

    After some Google map looking and suggestions from other people posting, I’d bet there’s a better route then the crazy one officially suggested.

  19. R Fetty

    Why on earth is this project running during the months of heaviest use? why not start in october and finish in march? I will take my chances on the bus lane on Lake city way/522 —-sorry metro—gotta ride…

  20. I have to say, I haven’t ridden the BGT in 20 years, but it seems like there is a much better way to do this. Are they really going to demo the entire route before beginning to repave? Are they going to demo in sections? Couldn’t they demo around commute times in smaller sections and move from the south to the north with minimal detours everyday?

    I realize that they are concerned about the access points, safety of riders, etc… but seriously, when they close a freeway, they do the work over a longer period of time in short sections. It seems to me, to the commuters that are using this section are using it as their freeway. Can’t a decent plan be figured out for those riders? Maybe a discounted pass for the time the path is closed – or dare I say it… A FREE BUS PASS?

    I have a feeling throwing 100’s of cyclists on to a detour route and 522 is going to slow down the buses more and increase costs far more than tossing 2 or 3 bikes on at a few stops every day.

    Just my 2 cents!

  21. peterc

    one way to help with the congestion for getting across the 520 would be if the ST buses would allow a bike or two inside the bus. Otherwise the commute will become longer than the 20-45 minutes is already is. Go to the SoundTransit and metro sites and put in your suggestions.

  22. Dave Boyd

    The detour route shown is an earlier option that has apparently been discarded. KC staff presented a revised detour at a Ballard Friends of Burke Gilman mtg. on 5/26 (still subject to permit approval from LFP at that point). It still uses Beach Drive at the north end (w/ a stairway connecting to the trail), but then crosses 522 at Ballinger, using the west sidewalk, then left on 178th, left on 37th, connecting w/ the detour route shown above.

  23. PhatBastard

    Ok, I ride from Bothell, and work Downtown, what are the options of heading up through Kirkland, straight through downtown Bellevue and across I90. How many more miles would that add? I usually leave home at 4.30am and I am going to head straight up 522, until they make it illegal to ride there, and after a few weeks , they will.

  24. Rob Stephenson

    I occasionally commute to downtown Seattle (from Wallingford) via a loop around Lake Washington down across I-90 and into the office. Other cyclists will understand my odd and lengthly route into work. I like to get milage, but I like going fast and have been avoiding the Burke in favor of 522 for a year because the northbound section is so fast, and there is only one short section where there is a small shoulder. Also the Burke there is in such bad condition and has so many driveways. I’ve always wondered about the legality (now I know it is “legal”), and have always tried to stay out of the way of busses. Southbound is trickier because there is a huge hill, thus your speeds are checked. Northbound is mostly downhill and you’re only in heavy traffic for a short time. I would welcome more cyclists on this stretch of road, but it will make travel for the busses slower at rush hour when the regular lanes are jammed, which on the section of road we’re talking about isn’t usually much of an issue because there aren’t many lights.

  25. Superbee

    I ride from S. Everett Via SR527 to SR522 to Lake city…every weekday….I jump off BG at Lake Forest and head up the hill…..its not bad….I generaly wait out the 522,309,372,318 busses and it gives me a window of about 5-10 minutes to ride the buslane up to 145th un-interrupted….but much of the hill has overgrowth on the westside of the road….which WSDOT could clear to expand the current shoulder….my problem is SR522 from 110-90th…northbound….there is no shoulder at all…..1000ft is pelted with debris…rocks,limbs,mud,water…….from 100th to 90th….road is torn up with potholes from buses….one of the most scareiest mile and half ever…..

  26. KentoSea

    Unbelievable…here is the NEW and OFFICIAL detour route. It’s even worse than the proposed route! Guess I’ll be joining many of you on the bus lane between Ballinger and 153rd on 6/15. Safe riding everyone!


  27. jxs

    I have never seen so much poor planning as in this state, when it comes making improvements to roadways including the improvement for Burke Gilman trail. Probably spend thousands of dollars for research and a study, and come up with a solution that a 8 year old could have come up with. As I assume many will take the 522 route, and king county and other state agencies better be prepared to implement better saftey features when things do happened.

  28. […] piece form 145th North of the Burke-Gilman Trail closes June 15 for an undefined period of time. Seattle Bike Blog reports thousands of cycling commuters use this roadway daily. King County may provide a detour route and […]

  29. […] two-mile piece of the Burke-Gilman Trail is closed for an undefined period of time north of 145th. Seattle Bike Blog reports thousands of cycling commuters use this roadway daily and suggests detours. King County also […]

  30. […] two-mile piece of the Burke-Gilman Trail is closed for an undefined period of time north of 145th. Seattle Bike Blog reports thousands of cycling commuters use this roadway daily and suggests detours. King County also […]

  31. […] two-mile piece of the Burke-Gilman Trail is closed for an undefined period of time north of 145th. Seattle Bike Blog reports thousands of cycling commuters use this roadway daily and suggests detours. King County also […]

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