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August meeting will discuss scope of yet another Burke-Gilman Missing Link study

Missing Link carnage, as reported via BikeWise
Missing Link carnage, as reported via BikeWise

It has officially been a full decade since the City Council adopted plans to complete the Burke-Gilman Trail’s notorious Missing Link in Ballard (so notorious that is now a proper noun). The city is now starting it’s next attempt to break a legal logjam that has blocked its construction for years.

But don’t get too excited yet. This meeting is only to discuss the planned scope of the study, which has not yet begun. It is scheduled for August 8 from 6 to 8 p.m at Ballard High School.

The project has long been funded and has full support from the city government. But exhaustive legal actions by a handful of businesses along the proposed route has kept shovels from hitting the ground to complete the final section of a trail that would otherwise stretch from Golden Gardens to Redmond (and beyond), passing through many similar industrial areas along the way (it is an old rail corridor, after all).

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Meanwhile, people biking continue to crash and get seriously injured by dangerous road conditions and railroad tracks through the missing section.

Late last year, city officials held a press conference to announce some temporary small fixes to address some of the more dangerous parts of the Missing Link. We have asked the city for an update on those changes, as they have not yet been implemented.

UPDATE 7/30: Here’s the status on these changes, from SDOT:

We will complete the safety improvements in two stages. The first stage will be operational improvements along NW 45th Street from 11th Avenue to Shilshole Avenue. We will start this work in mid-September and expect it to be completed in October.  NW 45th Street will be signed as a 20-mph roadway with traffic calming and striping changes at the track crossing.  We’ll also make changes at the two intersections on Ballard Avenue for better stop control.

The second stage will involve civil work and we will need to phase this construction in coordination with nearby businesses. The work will address the shoulder area on Shilshole, intersection improvements on 45th Street and shoulder widening along 45th Street. This second stage will be scheduled for next year.

We also suggested that it was time for even more drastic measures to ensure safety. With the EIS process likely to drag on for a long time to come (especially if these businesses continue their legal obstructions), the city should take more drastic steps to create a safer temporary route. Needed improvements (on top of those planned) include protected bike lanes on Market Street between Ballard Ave and the Locks, a safer connection between NW 45th St and Ballard Ave, and changes to Ballard Ave to allow for two-way bike travel along its entire length.

There are likely many small changes that could go a long way to allow reasonably safe travel for people on bikes while the city continues construction of its monumental tower of Missing Link trail study documents. Do you have any ideas? Leave them in the comments below.

Details about the meeting from the city (via Sustainable Ballard):



The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) proposes to complete the “missing link” between two existing segments of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The project will construct a marked, dedicated route for pedestrians and cyclists through the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, between the intersection of 11th Avenue NW and NW 45th Street and 30th Avenue NW at the Hiram M Chittenden (Ballard) Locks. Construction may include the addition of new and replaced impervious surfaces, landscaping, new and replaced stormwater drainage facilities, driveway improvements, street lighting, wayfinding signs, and traffic controls.

Background Information:

The Missing Link is the last, uncompleted portion of a regional, multi-use pedestrian and bicycle trail system that otherwise travels east from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle to Tracey Owen Station in Kenmore. The first paved section of the trail, from Gas Works Park to Kenmore, was completed in 1978. Additional sections of the trail have been completed incrementally since that time. The Burke-Gilman Trail generally follows the right-of-way of the old Burlington Northern railroad line and connects with other regional trails in Bothell (Wayne Golf Course), Redmond (Sammamish River Trail) and Issaquah (Lake Sammamish Trail).

SDOT originally issued a Determination of Non-Significance for a proposal to complete the Missing Link based on the route approved by City Council Resolution 30583. That DNS was revised in 2011 pursuant to an order from the King County Superior Court requiring SDOT to do additional environmental review of a portion of the route along Shilshole Avenue NW, between 17th Avenue NW and NW Vernon Place (Shilshole Segment). That Revised DNS was reissued in 2012 pursuant to a second order from the King County Superior Court requiring additional design of the Shilshole Segment. On appeal of the Reissued Revised DNS, the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner determined that an environmental impact statement (EIS) should be prepared to address traffic hazard impacts along the Shilshole Segment, specifically those impacts related to truck movements and conflicts with other traffic and trail users. Now, SDOT proposes to prepare an EIS on the entire Missing Link including the evaluation of a broader array of impacts and alternatives.


Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)

Location of Proposal:

The Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail is located in the Ballard neighborhood between the intersection of 11th Avenue NW and NW 45th Street on the east and 30th Avenue NW at the Ballard Locks on the west. Alternative routes between those two termini will be considered.

Lead Agency:


Areas for discussion in the EIS:

As described above, the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner has ordered SDOT to prepare an EIS on the potential traffic hazard impacts on the Shilshole Segment of the Missing Link. Although SDOT has not determined that there will be probable significant adverse impacts from the proposal, SDOT has chosen to expand the scope of its EIS to include discussion of the entire Missing Link, from 11th Avenue NW to the Ballard Locks, and has preliminarily identified the following areas for discussion in the EIS: transportation (including parking, traffic and traffic hazards); land and shoreline use; earth; plants and animals; historic and cultural resources; and economics. Additional elements of the environment may be included based on SDOT’s review of scoping comments.


The EIS will consider a range of alternative trail alignments and designs. The route adopted by City Council Resolution 30583, which generally follows the railroad corridor along Shilshole Avenue NW, as well as a No Action alternative, will be included as alternatives. A reasonable number of additional alternatives will be identified based on suggestions in scoping comments and existing information.

Scoping Process/Comment Period:

Agencies, tribes and individuals are invited to submit written comments on the scope of the EIS, including areas of the environment that should be discussed in the EIS and alternatives that should be considered. Comments may be submitted by letter or email to Peter Hahn, the SEPA Responsible Official, at the address given below by 4:00 PM August 16.

An open house/scoping meeting will be held on August 8, 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Ballard High School, 1418 NW 65th Street, Seattle, WA. An opportunity for submitting comments on the EIS scope will be provided.

Responsible Official:

Peter Hahn, Director
Seattle Department of Transportation
c/o Mark Mazzola, Environmental Manager
700 5th Avenue, Suite 3900
Seattle, WA 98104
[email protected]

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38 responses to “August meeting will discuss scope of yet another Burke-Gilman Missing Link study”

  1. JB

    Why are the businesses blocking completion of the trail? Who are they, and can/should we give them some negative publicity over it?

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      Why are the businesses blocking completion of the trail?
      —> Because they are NIMBYs, and have enjoyed the free use of public right of way for decades. Their argument is that a trail would not be safe, due to the industrial nature of the area, and that they are only concerned about safety. Never mind that a Salmon Bay cement truck nearly mowed me down on the Ballard Bridge this morning, failing to yield on the south end.
      Who are they, —> Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, Ballard Oil, and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce
      and can/should we give them some negative publicity over it?
      —> Yes! Boycott Ballard Seafood Fest and picket the salmon BBQ booth, where the owner of Ballard Oil cooks every year.

  2. Kirk from Ballard

    It’s just so painful.
    For a temporary route, I say forget Ballard Avenue completely. There’s plenty of room on Shilshole Ave. to get the job done, it’s more direct, and it would go a long ways towards demonstrating that a true bike trail as planned is the best solution.

    Due to some unrelated work, a small portion of Shilshole Ave. had the shoulder recently paved near Vernon Street. It would be great if the city would just pave a wide shoulder on the water side of Shilsole Ave., enough to make a two way cycle track, or a bike lane on each side of the street. They could also make NW 45th Street a one way street, and free up the other lane also for a cycle track on the water side to connect to the BGT at Fred Meyer. For crossing the rails of NW 45th Street, at the super wide portion under the bridge, repave the cycle track to cross the train tracks at a 90 degree angle, there is plenty of room.
    On the other end, there is plenty of room on Market Street for dedicated bike lanes from 24th Ave. NW to the locks.
    SDOT, just do it!

  3. Becky

    To the best of my knowledge it is mostly the gravel businesses along Shilsole. They’ve got the backing of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce*, however, which includes a lot of businesses that you’d think would be bike friendly. http://www.ballardchamber.com/


    1. danimal

      do these businesses not know the chamber is quarterbacking this? not care? worth boycotting ballard businesses until the chamber does the right thing?

      seems to me the following would be good place to start…


  4. SashaBikes

    I strongly believe in voting with my dollars. How can I ensure that my money doesn’t support any of the businesses blocking the Missing Link plans? How can I let the Ballard Chamber of Commerce know that I am extremely unhappy with what they are doing?

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      The main opposition is Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, and Ballard Oil. Unless you purchase a large amount of cement or marine fuel, you won’t really affect them with a boycott. The C of C is only a party to the suit to support these two member businesses.

      1. Matthew Snyder

        You’re right that the main players here are big marine and construction industries, and your average cyclist has very little leverage. But the Chamber of Commerce isn’t just playing a passive role. They also opposed a safe and reasonable arterial crossing on the new Ballard Greenway at NW 58th St and 24th Ave NW, which really had nothing to do with marine industry. Someone there just doesn’t “get” walking and cycling.

  5. Kirk from Ballard

    If you would like to let the Ballard Chamber of Commerce know that you value cycling for Ballard’s future, they are conducting an online suvey as part of their Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth initiative.
    Or from their website:

    1. Becky

      The Ballard Chamber is having their Board of Director’s meeting tomorrow. Perhaps we can deluge them with feedback on the CoC’s involvement with the lawsuit and how the completion of the trail would benefit a majority of their membership.

  6. MikeSea

    How about a Seattle Bike Blog article in which the businesses that are Ballard CoC are interviewed about this? Get every business on record about where they stand and how they are addressing it as a member of the Ballard CoC. I live in Ballard and would actually be willing to start boycotting Ballard CoC businesses if that puts more pressure on the Ballard CoC from within.

    1. Or how about flyers on the front door of every Ballard CoC business briefly explaining the situation and asking that people find out that business’s stance on the Missing Link?

      1. MikeSea

        Flyers? ummmm….No. Tom is a reporter. If he has time he can do some investigating. If not, then this was not that important. Trust in the Bike Blog to deliver.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Ha! Thanks for the trust, MikeSea. Unfortunately, important stuff slips by or goes uncovered depending on my time restraints. A series interviewing bcc businesses is a great idea. Can’t promise I’ll be able to do it, though. But if someone wanted to help…

  7. Andy

    First wait until we vote McGinn out of office. Why? Because the correct thing to do is to remove the rail line and put the trail there. McGinn would never remove a precious rail line even if it is only used as an excuse to block building the trail. If you put a trail next to Shilshole, the street that turns into 24th Ave NW, then you will have to deal with cars crossing the trail all day in order to park. Otherwise you would have to remove all of the parking. It’s our right of way, it does not belong to the Sand and Gravel company. Remove the rail line all the way to Fremont and make a really nice park 2 miles long.

    1. Jonathan

      Just who of the other candidates do you think is going to get something like that done? For all McGinn’s faults and failures, so far I don’t see strong cycling advocacy or interest coming out of Murray, Steinbrueck, and definitely not Harrell.

    2. Kirk from Ballard

      Actually, the rail line isn’t an issue, it has been designed around to accomodate it. To learn more about the design and history, visit the SDOT Burke-Gilman Trail Extension Projects, Missing Link page:

    3. factsstraight

      Andy, the city has a plan to complete the trail that dates back to the Nickels administration. The mayor has no power to demand removal of the rails, thanks to byzantine federal rules. What McGinn *has* done is to keep fighting for the trail and plan intermediate steps. This is now a nearly five-year legal battle, with a few businesses appealing every decision by the city to try and make it a safer street. The safe route along Shilshole was identified in a study a decade ago.

  8. Rebecca

    Something desperately needs to be done about the train tracks just west of the Fred Meyer. The Burke-Gilman is frequented by inexperienced cyclists (like me) who like to hug the right side of the road. I realizes that was a mistake about a hundred feet too late, and had a huge crash that kept me off the bike for about 3 weeks. So: train tracks be gone!

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      This section is horrible. And very few cars actually use the street. It would make so much sense to make the street one way, and turn the southern lane into a two way cycle track.

  9. JB

    So far no one has really been able to state what it is these businesses stand to lose, or think they stand to lose. Somehow NIMBY doesn’t seem like quite the right term to describe heavy industry like gravel and cement.

    1. bill

      “No one” includes the three businesses behind the Ballard Terminal Railroad. All they do is bleat about safety and file lawsuits to prevent development of the trail. BNSF announced the line would be abandoned in 1997. The cycling community was overjoyed, but those three Ballard businesses formed their toy railroad and took over the line. BTR has forced the city to waste millions of dollars and 15 years on this project. BTR is mucking about in Kirkland now, too, suing to prevent conversion of a line Burlington Northern abandoned this year.

      @Andy (“vote McGinn out of office”): Neither McGinn nor any other mayor has power over railroads. They are governed by federal law which trumps local jurisdictions. That is why the railroad makes traffic in SODO such a mess. There is nothing substantial the city can do.

      1. JB

        They must have some underlying reason though, even if it’s too politically incorrect to say out loud. They’re afraid if they allow the bike path, yuppies with yoga mats are going to storm into lower Ballard? What is really going on? I think we would do well to understand our adversary somewhat better before getting into anything as confrontational as a boycott. I’m not prepared to believe that they are completely irrational, or that this is Alabama in the civil rights era.

      2. bill

        Every time the city receives a favorable ruling, BTR objects and the project is delayed again. The history is the history. Fifteen years of obstruction. Pardon me, but I am through with trying to understand.

      3. JB

        So what are you going to do, counter-sue? Delay is their friend, not ours. If they just hate bikes, then they just hate bikes … but you can’t effectively call them out until you know enough to do it accurately. Besides, maybe 20% just hate bikes, and the rest have issues that are solvable. Taking on every member of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce is unlikely to be a winning strategy.

    2. Kirk from Ballard

      They truly are NIMBYs. They state they are all for the trail, just Not In My Back Yard. They want it moved to a cycle track on Leary and Market Street, or some such nonsense.
      Ballard Oil claims their insurance company told them that the mere presence of the trail near their business would force the insurance company to increase their rates and drive them out of business.
      The Ballard Terminal Railroad is acutally not directly part of the Ballard Business Appelants, who have filed all the lawsuits to block the trail. The BBA are comprised of: Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Ballard Oil, The Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing and Industrial Center, the North Seattle Industrial Coalition and the Seattle Marine Business Coalition.
      Ironically, the lawer representing the BBA is Josh Brower, who is a comissioner for the City of Seattle Planning Comission.
      AND Waren Aakervik of Ballard Oil is the chair of the City of Seattle’s Freight Advisory Board. He is often on record in the meeting minutes asking the SDOT if it would be possible to ban bicycles from roadways that trucks use. The response from SDOT is always, “um, no, bicycles can use any street”.

  10. David Behroozi

    It would be good data to have to stand out there for a day and count the number of trucks going in and out vs. the number of cyclists.

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      But the number of cyclists would be skewed downward by the horrible conditions on the road. Which is in reality exactly what the BBA wants. Less bike traffic in their back yard.

      1. David Behroozi

        I’m actually more interested in the truck traffic. If it’s an insignificant number of trucks an hour then they don’t really have leg to stand on.

  11. Tom Fucoloro

    Just added this update on the city’s proposed Missing Link temporary fixes, from SDOT:

    We will complete the safety improvements in two stages. The first stage will be operational improvements along NW 45th Street from 11th Avenue to Shilshole Avenue. We will start this work in mid-September and expect it to be completed in October. NW 45th Street will be signed as a 20-mph roadway with traffic calming and striping changes at the track crossing. We’ll also make changes at the two intersections on Ballard Avenue for better stop control.

    The second stage will involve civil work and we will need to phase this construction in coordination with nearby businesses. The work will address the shoulder area on Shilshole, intersection improvements on 45th Street and shoulder widening along 45th Street. This second stage will be scheduled for next year.

  12. Kara Sweidel

    Well this is good timing for me… On July 4, I was biking on Shilshole, only to wake up with a bunch of people standing over me talking about how they’ve either personally experienced or seen others fall on the tracks. An ambulance ride, a couple CT scans and x rays later, I discovered I had a broken collarbone, possibly a separated AC joint, and a mild concussion. I’ve ridden this area before many times with no issue, and I can’t really say what happened this time. I do know that in the year and a half I’ve lived in Seattle, I’ve heard many discussions about the Missing Link. I’m still not entirely sure what the deal is, and who is preventing it from being fixed (though this post helped!) but it doesn’t make sense for a city as bike friendly as Seattle to have such a non-bike friendly gap in the trail.

    Some people have suggested that I file a claim against the city. I’ve been back and forth on this for various reasons, but it seems as if this post and comments are indicating that the city does want to fix it. I had sent a request to SDOT for information regarding the number of documented accidents in this area (still awaiting response) and considered posting something asking cyclists to come forward with stories of injuries and accidents and compiling the data myself. I would be willing to help with some kind of interviewing of Ballard Chamber of Commerce businesses if that would help. I don’t think filing claims against the city would do much, and I don’t know how to take on large industrial companies. Someone mentioned that BTA files lawsuits… against whom and for what? Is there some sort of counter-suit that could be made?

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      Kara, you can log your crash on Bikewise, and see other reports of crashes there:
      The Ballard Business Appelants file their suits against the city to keep the city from finishing the fully designed and funded trail through that area. There is no countersuit, the city just has to step it up and finish an Enviromental Impact Statement.

  13. Guest

    As far as any boycott – I’m watching Salmon Bay concrete trucks delivering concrete to a Seattle City Light project as I type. It would be interesting to know how much money City departments spend with companies that oppose a trail.

    I recently rode along W. Marginal Way on the Duwamish Trail and passed by the Lafarge driveway just fine. I also ride by the Calportland concrete plant in Kenmore and while the trail is across the street – this seems to work fine.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Just think of all the industrial crossings on the other West Seattle Trails, like the ones by the Port and the start of the Alki Trail. Still totally fine.

      1. Kirk from Ballard

        And no matter where the trail goes, the trucks would have to cross it. I guess it will be ironic, when the inevitable happens and the trail is being built on Shilsole Avenue, Salmon Bay will supply the concrete.

  14. Mark

    It’s all about the [free] parking along Shilshole Avenue NW. If the city were to begin charging for parking there, most opposition would melt away. Those who park there, in cahoots with the businesses, don’t want to lose their freebie.

  15. Shawn

    Replace all the free parking on the north side of Shilshole Ave NW with a “temporary” cycletrack until the Missing Link is completed. Suddenly, a bunch of business who don’t think they have a dog in this fight will be pushing hard to get the damn thing built. Free Parking isn’t a constitutional right, people.

  16. […] city does have some small fixes planned for next year, but they are mere Band Aids that don’t solve the core problems that make the […]

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