It’s true. Apparently six years of studies on the Burke-Gilman Missing Link through Ballard is not enough, and the Hearing Examiner has ordered the city to produce a costly and time-consuming Environmental Impact Statement for the sorely-needed trail segment.
Meanwhile, people continue to get injured (one woman was even the victim of a hit and run last month) on the confusing and dangerous segment connecting two parts of the region’s most popular and important trail.
While the city goes back for studies, it’s time to take temporary action to protect the safety of people biking and walking along this stretch of unnecessarily unfriendly road. There are several options the city could pursue, but they should act swiftly to get a solution in place while the trail connection continues its seemingly endless and expensive legal fight.
One option would be to temporarily make NW 45th St/Shilshole Ave one-way for general traffic. Likely, eastbound would make the most sense, as many vehicles are headed to the Ballard Bridge or Leary Way. People can easily use Leary to accomplish most of the trips currently on Shilshole. The southern-most lane could then be turned into a two-way cycle track from the trail’s current terminus at Fred Meyer to Market Street.
Since traffic levels on Market St west of 24th Ave/Shilshole are significantly lower than the rest of the street, this four-lane highway-designed road is the perfect candidate for a road safety project. One option could be to continue the two-way cycle track (parking-separated this time) on the south side of Market all the way to the Burke-Gilman Trail re-start. There are relatively few streets and driveways on the south side of Market, and a two-way cycle track would save money since only one (maybe two) bus islands would be necessary.
And it would be a boon to the west end of the Market St commercial area, which would suddenly find a regional bike trail on its front doorstep. Remember, more customers in Fremont get there by bike than by car. The same could easily happen in Ballard (if it is not happening already). There would also be several good options for linking to the pending neighborhood greenway on NW 58th Street.
Certainly, making Shilshole/45th one-way would be a slight inconvenience to some of the businesses along the way (though not that much of one). But the Ballard Business Appellants agree that the safety of people on bikes is the most important thing (that was the argument they made to send the project back for more study). Safety is also the city’s top transportation priority, as was stated several times at Wednesday’s launch of the new Road Safety Action Plan (more on that soon). The missing link is a serious risk to the lives and health of Seattle residents. Once the trail is completed, we can review reopening two-way traffic on the roads.
Since this is a temporary measure and sticks entirely to existing roadways (no changes of use involved), the city can do this quickly (before the end of 2012 if we want to). We can reassess later via public meetings and decide what to keep, what to get rid of and what to improve once the trail is complete.
While Cascade Bicycle Club hasn’t seen or commented on the idea I just suggested, they agree that something must be done immediately in the interim. A safe Ballard cannot wait:
“We want to see fast action to bring all the stakeholders together to discuss our options. Something has to be done to improve the safety on the Missing Link segment until a trail is built,” said [Cascade Executive Director Chuck] Ayers. “We hope the City will do whatever is legally required to move the project forward.”
What do you think the city should do while we wait for another Missing Link study?