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After delays, big Burke-Gilman detours begin + Support the UW TIGER grant

Via an interactive map of the trail detour.
Via an interactive map of the trail detour.

The UW is finally set to start the set of big Burke-Gilman Trail detours Wednesday. So be prepared for delays through the area, whether you travel through the area on the trail or get there from the Montlake Bridge.

We wrote about the upcoming detour back in April, but construction got pushed back a month. Now they are ready to get started, according to an email from UW Transportation Services.

The crazy amount of work also now includes a Seattle City Light project that will close sections of the trail between the substation under I-5 and 15th Ave NE. The first phase of this work starts this month between Brooklyn and 15th. No word yet on what the detours or schedule will be for the other phases. I have a question out to City Light and will update when I learn more.

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Support the Burke-Gilman TIGER grant


This section of trail near the University Bridge demonstrates what the whole trail could someday be like
This section of trail near the University Bridge demonstrates what the whole trail could someday be like

Amid all the crazy detours, the UW has submitted a totally rocking application for a $14 million federal TIGER grant so they can fully upgrade the Burke-Gilman Trail through campus (see below). You can voice your support for the application online.

This is the second year UW has tried for a TIGER grant, and they have refined the application to give it a better chance this year (grants often take multiple tries).

The trail already carries as many people during peak hours as a high-performing lane of a major freeway, and that before the September launch of Pronto Cycle Share and the 2016 opening of UW Station.

The trail is an amazing success story, but it is also experiencing serious congestion issues that reduce its ability to carry more people comfortably. With big increases in use projected, there is no better time to invest in widening the trail, reducing conflicts and creating separate walking and biking spaces.

BGT-Tiger-one-pager-2-tripsBelow is the full TIGER application:

Application by tfooq

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22 responses to “After delays, big Burke-Gilman detours begin + Support the UW TIGER grant”

  1. Josh

    Still seems like a crazy mashup of detours to avoid the obvious route — a (temporary?) greenway upgrade for Pacific Street.

    1. Andres Salomon

      Yep. If I were UW’s transportation dept, I’d be using the Burke closing as an excuse to be creating permanent, parallel biking and walking infrastructure. Sure, the trail upgrades will be nice, but the trail is still going to be congested after the upgrades. Safe, comfortable parallel routes would ease that congestion, and give people the option of picking their route based upon various factors (grade, desired speed, etc), rather than just one (not being maimed or killed by a car).

  2. kpt

    So, are they actually going to put up signs and make sure people can find the route? I help at least one person per day figure out where to go on the current detour.

    With the signage for this detour, UW really does seem like they aren’t aware that the BG is a major component of the local commuting infrastructure, and think that instead it’s an interesting amenity for their students and staff.

    1. Jessica

      I got sooooo lost today! Walked my bike down 2 flights of stairs because I had no idea even how to retrace my path to get back to where I’d lost the route.

      1. kpt

        Some nice big green arrows on the pavement in the street/route would not only keep us all together (safety in numbers), but would be a great indication to the cars that we’ll be sharing with, that there are bikes around.

        Could be implemented so quickly and cheaply.

    2. Dan

      I have had limited success (a couple emails back and forth) giving feedback on what I, too, feel is a terrible signage situation. Granted, no changes were made but they were somewhat receptive to what I had to say. I would suggest sharing your thoughts with

      [email protected]
      [email protected]
      [email protected]

      These are the contact emails listed on various BGT construction pages on the UW website. Good luck!

  3. Steve Campbell

    Nice that they’ve timed this to coincide with Sound Transit’s removal of the east sidewalk along Montlake Blvd. Maybe UW and Sound Transit thought it was “Don’t” Bike to Work Month?

  4. Matthew Snyder

    The new “test section” trail design relies on subtle visual and tactile cues to direct people how to use it. This new stretch of the trail at the western end of campus, near the Ikea dorm, does not seem to be working well, in my experience — at least not any measurably better than the rest of the trail does. Pedestrians heading eastbound either choose to take the concrete sidewalk (as they’re “supposed to”), or they just continue to stay to the right and take the asphalt bike path, or they jog on the little gravel strip on the south side of the trail. As a cyclist, you’re now effectively splitting through pedestrians on both sides. They’ve added a “mixing zone” in that area, where bike, pedestrian, and car traffic all comes together in a zig-zag mess. It feels to me like the equivalent of putting an uncontrolled intersection in the middle of a major highway (to use Tom’s analogy). It’s not so much the speed of the cyclists, it’s the volume of cyclists and the walking-in-every-direction-while-distracted pedestrians.

    I suppose the hope is that with time, people will eventually “figure it out” and the subtle visual cues will help everyone use the trail comfortably. But this is a fairly transient population, with huge numbers of new students arriving every year. My sense is that a revamped Burke-Gilman needs more explicit mode separation and more controlled intersections. I’d like to learn more about whatever metrics they’ve been using to evaluate the existing “test” sections of the trail.

    1. Ints

      The design improvements at the west end of the UW section of the BG are in my experience much better than other segments of the trail. There are off travelway pockets for people to safely loiter in at the pedestrian crossings, textured paving warning strips for trail users and improved lighting and aesthetics.
      There are flaws, the main one being that most runners don’t like running on concrete so they “take a lane” on the trail or split over to the gravel shoulder. I for one won’t begrudge their “taking a lane” because we do the same thing when in mixed traffic on the streets.
      Seeing as this is a heavily mixed -use stretch of the trail, cyclists need to adjust their speed through here to a point where it is safe for all users, depending on the amount of people using the space. How many cyclists slow down and yield to crossing pedestrian traffic in this stretch of the BG? While absent minded students are an issue, most of the potential conflicts I see when riding through here are cyclists trying to keep their speed up for their Strava account.

      1. Southeasterner

        “Seeing as this is a heavily mixed -use stretch of the trail, cyclists need to adjust their speed through here to a point where it is safe for all users, depending on the amount of people using the space. ”

        Or even better take them off the trail. Put a functioning bike lane on Pacific and Montlake that connects with the Lake Washington Loop. As mentioned before the new UW ‘bike lanes’ will immediately be taken over by joggers/runners who won’t be interested in running on concrete (can’t blame them).

    2. Jessica

      This is spot on. It is an interesting idea to design it with these subtle cues to signal people where to go, but I think this is not necessarily the place for subtlety. Like you said, there’s huge turnover with new students each year and new trail users coming out in large numbers in warm weather, plus lots of distractions (people on their phones, listening to headphones, talking with friends). Plus you have some people consciously rejecting what the cues are telling you to do because the cues don’t really make sense (e.g. as an eastbound pedestrian approaching this section, I’m already on the right so I don’t want to cross the path to go onto the raised concrete section on the left just to have to cross back again in another couple hundred feet, and as a runner, I prefer to avoid pavement when I can, so I would rather run on the gravel shoulder even though the trail “wants” me to go on the raised concrete side).

      1. Lynn

        Yes. I wish I could “like” these comments. I agree that there are a few improvements with the test trail section but also some flaws that need to be addressed before this goes live on the whole trail. I think more specific signage would be helpful to indicate where people should be (Vancouver BC has great bike/ped signage: http://blog.hellobc.com/exploring-vancouver-by-bike/). Also, painting some distinct crosswalks could cut down on some of the chaos in the intersections where students are milling about in every direction. I think consistency for the side of the trail each mode should be on is key. Does anyone know someone at UW that is working on this project who we could give feedback on this test section to?

  5. Hey, maybe if Seattle City Light is working on the Burke under I-5 they can fix the horrible lighting conditions there. It’s worst westbound on rainy evenings when there’s still lots of traffic out — ambient light that would reach the ground is blocked out by the freeway or below the level of the trail, and eastbound car headlights are pointed up in your face.

  6. Jonathan

    I have a feeling that much like the LFP detour, it will be up to cyclists to figure out on their own the most intuitive detour. What I’m seeing on that map makes me suspect I’d get lost without really good signage.

  7. Gary Anderson

    It would be nice if the UW painted some lines, arrows, or Dan Henrys on the detour. There are signs but unless you’re looking really hard for them you’re apt to miss them. Painted cues on the pavement would be hard to miss.

    1. Jessica

      Agreed. Today as I entered campus I would have missed the immediate turn onto the detour (as I did yesterday) if not for another biker who happened to be going onto the trail at the same time I was. There were signs but there’s so much other stuff to see at that intersection they are easy to miss. There were several other bikers who went straight (as I did yesterday); not sure if they were intending to go to other places on campus or if they missed the detour.

    2. Gary Anderson

      Here a sharrow, there a sharrow, everywhere a sharrow sharrow! Pretty easy to follow the route now (5/16).

  8. […] That first month of biking to NOAA back in 2011, I was hoping to commute once or even twice a week if I could, but this year, I’m going for three, maybe even four times a week. While my commute isn’t super short—nearly 8 miles each way— I’m lucky enough that I can ride almost the entire way on the Burk-Gilman Trail, a dedicated bike path that “carries as many people during peak hours as a high-performing lane of a major freeway.” […]

  9. […] Department of Transportation is looking at how to improve the pilot project effort. New work on the Burke-Gilman Trail is about to begin with detours in place. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has submitted their TIGER grant […]

  10. Alex Fleig

    Biked this on Sunday, May 18. I thought the signage was very clear at this point. It made me think of the one time that I recall there being a detour necessary on the Chief Sealth trail in the south end. There was no warning and the only choice to get around it was either to back and circle around or go straight up an extremely steep road to Beacon Avenue.

    The one point of confusion that I had was how to get off the detour and get on the Lake Washington Loop. We ended up going north along Montlake and then coming back and doing a lot of crossing at crosswalks. Should we have gotten off the trail earlier?

  11. […] university manages the section of the popular regional trail that passes through their campus, and they have plans to fully rebuild and widen the bumpy, deteriorating trail as soon as they can get their hands on […]

  12. […] they need to completely rebuild the trail through campus. For more details on those plans, see our previous story on a failed TIGER grant […]

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