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Months later, ‘Missing Link’ Band-Aid still under construction

IMG_2426In late December, just two weeks before Mayor Mike McGinn left office, the city began work on a project to improve safety on a particularly troublesome section of the Burke-Gilman Missing Link in Ballard.

While not a complete solution, the project is a Band-Aid for one of the worst sections while the city completes an environmental impact statement for the trail and finishes the lengthy and costly legal battles delaying the project.

The city has changed a stretch of NW 45th Street into a one-way street, using the former westbound lane to create a two-way bikeway. While the new bikeway won’t get people on bikes all the way to the Locks where the west section of the trail begins, it should at least help people get to Ballard Ave and the neighborhood’s commercial center.

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But three months after work started, only some sections of are complete. The project has been sitting in it’s partially-finished form for so long that readers have been sending me notes wondering if the city has abandoned the project.

They have not. The delays are due to necessary paving work that needs warmer weather to complete, according to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan:

The project is not yet finished as we need to complete some additional pavement repair followed by striping work. The pavement patching is the key element driving our schedule. The 11th Ave NW and NW 45th St intersection will be repaved, which will make that crossing much nicer for everyone, and we will also repair a portion of the waiting area at the 45th/46th Street intersection where the two-way ends. But to complete this work we need some dry and warm weather. Once that is done we can move forward with striping, extending the two-way bike lane from under the bridge to 46th Street. All of this should be completed next month.

Several readers have reported confused people driving on the bikeway. Here’s the tale from one reader:

I was headed westbound on that stretch last night and was passed by a truck. I chewed him out at the stop sign, and he didn’t believe me that those were supposed to be bike lanes — he hadn’t seen the markings at all, and I don’t really blame him. It’s dangerous.

Here’s another:

Here we are in March and it still isn’t done. In fact, given that it’s only half-striped and poorly signed, I think it’s actually more dangerous than it was before the “fix.” It’s just confusing, and this morning at about 8:30am I had the inevitable scary incident. I had a head-on encounter with someone in a pickup who was towing another pickup westbound in the supposed bike-only lane just east of 15th. I pointed to the bike markings on the road as I swerved around him. His response was to swear violently at me out of his open window.

I had plenty of time to react, so I was never really in danger, but it still left me pretty shaken up and angry. But when it comes right down to it, this is the fault of the road design more than anything (though the pickup guy was obviously a jerk too!). If SDOT had actually finished this project when they said they would, and had put in some meaningful barriers to prevent wrong-way drivers from using these lanes, this never would have happened.

In observing the street since the changes were put in place, it certainly seems like fewer people choose to bike in the middle of the train tracks next the road. This was the cause of many crashes, as people exiting the trail look for a place to bike other that in the street, which was marked with sharrows.

IMG_2442The all-way stop intersection where the new bikeway meets the trail near Fred Meyer is still a bit chaotic. Amazingly, I have never actually witnessed a close call here, perhaps because everyone senses the confusion and pays extra attention. But it is hardly comfortable and would not likely pass an all ages and abilities test.

The first section heading west is largely operational and comfortable:

IMG_2432But once you get close to the Ballard Bridge, there is still a lot of work to be done:

IMG_2436SDOT says work should be complete next month (in time for Bike Month).

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16 responses to “Months later, ‘Missing Link’ Band-Aid still under construction”

  1. Kirk

    Months later? Mayor McGinn announced these changes in December of 2012. http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2012/12/27/today-city-will-announce-missing-link-safety-improvements/

  2. Kara

    I understand needing to wait for warmer weather for paving changes, but there really should be some better markings and signage announcing the alteration of the roadway. The first time since the change that I was biking eastbound out of Ballard on Shilshole, I didn’t see any signs indicating that cyclists would be merging with cars to enter the cycle track. It was a dark and rainy night… is there a sign that I missed?

  3. BallardCommuter

    What a mess! The fundamental design is poor (the bike lanes should be on the south side of the road to avoid that nasty diagonal crossing shown in the second photo, plus conflicts on the west edge), but the execution is worse. How can they just walk away from a half-finished road project for nearly 1/3 of a year? And not a bit of information is released until Tom went digging for it? This doesn’t really leave the impression that attention to detail, follow-through, or outright competence are high on the list of job requirements at SDOT!

  4. Kirk

    On the flip side, you should have seen the work done by SDOT in December and January underneath the Alaksa Way Viaduct to reroute automobiles due to the seawall project. Large crews working day and night in very cold and wet weather, fully excavating, filling, paving and striping an amazing new roadway for automobiles, complete with brand new signals at every single intersection. I was amazed to see how hard and fast this work was done, while knowing that the Missing Link project was sitting dangerously unfinished. Sorry, the need for warm and dry weather is a total bullshit excuse from SDOT.
    Additionally, there are markings on the pavement of the missing link for speed humps, both in the bike lane and in the auto lane. I’m just waiting for the day they do pave, and put the speed humps in the dedicated bike lane, to completely prove that they don’t know what they are doing, don’t get it, and don’t care. In case their handling of this project hasn’t already shown that….

    1. AJL

      I believe that the routing underneath the Viaduct was conducted by WSDOT not SDOT – completely auto-centric. Bad routing for cyclists, even dangerous. And the light are timed such that it can turn into a freeway with few red lights slowing motor vehicles. I actually welcome traffic down there as I ride through because that’s the only thing that mitigates driver speeds. They also got rid of most “no right turn on red” signage lately. There’s a few up still, like the new one at the south Colman dock ferry entrance which drivers completely ignore (I got into it with one driver the other day who insisted he had stopped and yielded to crosswalk users but then continued through the light on a red anyway…).
      Add to that driver-centric plan are the extremely loooooong waits to use the crosswalks when abiding by the “beg” button. Lots of jaywalkers = problem with wait times!

      SDOT seems to be very slow on getting bike infrastructure completed. I would like to see a roadway be half done for months and months on end with no signage and incomplete paint markings…the lack of consideration for cyclists show where the priorities truly are.

    2. Kirk

      I’m pretty certain the Alaska Way work was done by SDOT as part of their seawall project. They noted on their website “It’s been a busy eight weeks for the Elliott Bay Seawall Project as we worked on Alaskan Way”.
      I end up just taking the lane the whole way now…

      1. AJL

        Thanks for the update! It’s changed so much down there it’s hard to keep track. I stand corrected.

  5. Law Abider

    I’ve been wondering what’s happened to the four way stop at 14th Ave and 46th St.

    1. Kirk

      Since they haven’t installed the stop that they announced at 46th and 14th, I’m hoping they actually figured it out, and are planning on putting it at 46th and Shilshole, where an all way stop is sorely needed.

  6. mhaze

    I can’t wait until this is finished. Despite the scary stories here, even in its current state, it is a vast improvement over what it was like before.

    They chose correctly to put the new bikes lanes on the north side of the street, for two reasons. First, and most importantly, the industrial businesses along that stretch don’t have to cross the bike lanes for access to their places. Second, and probably fixable, is that huge puddle that forms covering the whole east-bound lane on rainy days. Nobody likes to ride through that.

    That said, getting into the new bike lanes is dicey at both ends. Most people (bikes and cars) are pretty careful near Fred Meyer, so I’ve never seen a real problem there, even though it is far less than ideal to have to ride on a diagonal across the intersection in either direction.

    The Ballard Bridge end is a mess, though. Some better clarification on where the bike lanes actually start would help everybody. On the other hand, I have wondered if a little confusion isn’t a good thing over the past few moths, since I haven’t had as many cars or trucks speeding close by me right there in the mornings.

  7. Matthew Snyder

    Tom, thanks for following up on this story. It probably goes without saying that SDOT’s excuse here is pretty flimsy, but at least they haven’t totally forgotten about the project. The Ballard greenway (NW 58th) also suffered from this same sort of piecemeal approach to relatively simple infrastructure installation, with the rollout occurring in fits and starts and with poor signage. Hopefully the incoming SDOT director will be able to address this shortcoming.

    I’m curious whether you have heard anything about a potential all-way stop sign at the Ballard Bridge end of this segment (where NW 46th/Shilshole/NW 45th all come together)?

  8. Damon

    Thank you for following this, Tom. Right now, this stretch feels a lot more dangerous to me than before the change. I’ve come face to face with cars in the bike lanes 3 times and had them pass me westbound in the bike lanes 4-5 times.

    I hope they’re driving in the bike lanes accidentally, because if they’re scofflaws figuring that they’ll probably get away with driving in the bike lanes for a block, then it won’t get any better when the lanes are marked.

  9. […] a route somewhere in the 16th, 17th or 18th Ave NW area that will connect all the way from the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link (someday hopefully an actual trail) all the way up to Soundview Playfield near Whitman Middle […]

  10. sdv

    Do we need better weather to put up signs that prevent cars from entering westbound? Currently there are only signs at one of the three intersections – I still encounter cars headed west on a regular basis (at least every other day).

  11. Kirk

    Just checking back two months later. This project is still languishing, unfinished and dangerous. Obiviously, they have shown by the opening of the Broadway cycle track today that work can be done. SDOT just doesn’t think that the location that was number one in their survey of worst places to bike should be a priority.

  12. […] five months in a state of partial completion, the city made substantial progress toward completing the temporary Burke-Gilman Missing Link […]

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