If you were hoping this year would be the last time you find yourself navigating across dangerous train tracks on Ballard roads filled with speeding cars and industrial trucks, I’ve got some bad news for you. The Burke-Gilman Missing Link has once again been sent back to the city for further study.
King County Superior Court Judge Rogers agreed with the city Hearing Examiner on 18 of 19 conclusions, but ultimately decided the city needs to have more detailed plans for the trail design (see our coverage of those arguments). So that means the city will do more design work, then go back to the Hearing Examiner and then to Judge Rogers. These delays make the planned (and funded!) 2012 construction look unlikely.
More details from Cascade:
Cascade Bicycle Club, a leader in creating more livable communities through bicycle education, advocacy and riding programs, announces the ruling by King County Superior Court Judge Rogers on the “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The decision, the latest in a string of suits brought by the Ballard Business Appellants, finds in favor the City of Seattle and joint-defendant Cascade Bicycle Club on 18 of 19 conclusions, but this does not clear the way for trail construction.
Specifically, Judge Rogers ruled against conclusion #9 of the Hearing Examiner’s ruling, asserting that, despite already being at a 10 percent level of design as is usual under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), further design details from the City of Seattle are necessary.
“This decision is yet another set-back for Ballard and the greater cycling community,” said Chuck Ayers, Cascade Bicycle Club executive director. “We worked to find a compromise route – the so-called ‘Green Route’ – yet that wasn’t enough to satisfy the appellants. Today, this case should be behind us, but the appellants continue to frustrate the process with a mentality that bicycling and industry cannot mix. But this has been proven untrue. Cities around the world have succeeded in sharing transportation corridors, and here in Seattle we’re showing it can be done respectfully and safely as with the new Ship Canal Trail and the Alaskan Way Trail.”
The project is planned and funded but progress has been frustrated by years of legal challenges brought forth by a small group of Ballard businesses and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. Completing the “Missing Link” section of the Burke-Gilman Trail has been planned by the City of Seattle since it agreed to acquire the abandoned rail line right of way from Burlington Northern Santa Fe in 1989. The BNSF discontinued rail service and abandoned the line in 1997, and the transfer of much of the property took place shortly thereafter. A handful of businesses opposed the safety improvements along the corridor and have appealed every decision made.
“While we’re disappointed with the result, we are confident that the City will be able to provide the necessary detail to show that the project would not pose a significant impact to the environment,” said Jeff Eustis, attorney representing Cascade. “Cascade continues to support the City as it works to supply the additional information.”
This 1.5-mile Missing Link is located between Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where the trail approaches from Golden Gardens Park, and the Ballard Fred Meyer, where the trail resumes for another 15 miles to Kenmore. From there, the Burke-Gilman joins with the Sammamish River Trail, giving continuous trail access to east King County communities. When completed, the project will provide a new, separated trail and signed routes for bicyclists and pedestrians, and will solve numerous safety problems. At present, there are few safe routes for bicyclists and pedestrians through this section near the Ballard Bridge, which has been the site of many injuries.
“Too many people have suffered serious falls and injuries in this corridor due to years of delays that have blocked improvements,” said Kevin Carrabine, longtime Ballard resident, bicycle commuter and member of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail. “I’m sad to hear this will continue. The community has been waiting for a safer trail for too long.”