A little more width has been added to the recently-fixed railroad crossing on the Burke-Gilman near NW 41st St in Frelard (between Fremont and Ballard). The changed crossing makes two sharp turns in order to cross the tracks at a 90 degree angle. Before, the trail crossed at a shallow angle, and a rubber pad was installed to prevent tires from getting caught in the tracks. However, that rubber pad gets very slippery in the rain (it’s Seattle, after all) or ice, and many crashes had been reported.
After the fix was completed, however, several people voiced concerns about how skinny the new trail section was, especially on the south part of the turn. I actually went out myself to measure:
At less than 10 feet, the trail width was far below standards (12-14 feet is the recommended standard width for a new trail, though that would clearly not apply to this section of the trail, which is less than ten on the south end or the crossing and about 11 on the north).
The worry was that we had replaced a very substandard trail crossing with a slightly less substandard crossing. Indeed, the majority of people who stopped to talk to my friend Renee (pictured above) and I while we made our very scientific measurements expressed dislike for the crossing. However, much of the disdain is probably a combo of not liking change and not liking that you have to slow down so much to safely navigate it. In my opinion, the slowing down part is not a bad thing.
I do wonder if it would be particularly hard to navigate while pulling a trailer or riding a tandem. Oh, and inline skaters were definitely having a little trouble (I saw one go right off the trail, having misjudged the turn and approached too quickly).
Anyway, the added width will certainly help, and overall, the crossing is far better than the old one. Some signage should still be on the way, which will hopefully suggest slowing down and give people an idea of what is coming. From Rick Sheridan at SDOT:
Further work will add warning signs about the curve, a restriped crosswalk, flexible delineator posts, edge lines on the crossing and a solid center line to keep traffic separated at the crossing.
What are your thoughts on the new crossing? Have you had any collisions or near-collisions?