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No TIGER grant for Burke-Gilman Trail + UW is now a gold-level bike friendly campus

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

Once again, the University of Washington was not selected for a competitive TIGER grant to upgrade the entirety of the Burke-Gilman Trail through their campus.

The 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 the $14 million they need to make it happen. This is the second year in a row their application failed to make it to the top of a growing list of projects. 797 eligible applications were received, but USDOT was only able to award money for 72 of them.

“At the moment, we do not have a clear funding strategy that can deliver the project prior to light rail opening,” UW Director of Transportation Josh Kavanagh told UW’s The Daily. If they had been selected, work could have begun in early 2015. It they wait until the next TIGER cycle (and then win, which is clearly no easy task), construction won’t be complete until well after UW Station opens.

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As we reported previously, the Northgate bike/walk bridge also failed to win a TIGER grant.

Upgrading the Burke through campus is needed as soon as possible. When not being detoured due to the Rainier Vista project, the trail carries as many people during rush hour as a lane of a busy freeway (more than 1,000). This means crunched spaces, slow-downs for bike users and uncomfortable conditions for people walking. When light rail trains start arriving at UW Station in 2016, that number is expected to jump up about 50 percent, beyond capacity for many sections of the trail. The trail is an important piece of the region’s mobility that needs to support the growing need for people to bike, walk and access transit.

BGT-Tiger-one-pager-2-tripsUnlike with a freeway, however, it’s much easier and cheaper to add capacity to a biking and walking facility. UW plans would separate people walking and biking and create wider crossing zones with better sight lines so people can see each other more easily.

UW’s work on this is one of several reasons the League of American Bicyclists has recognized them as a gold level bike-friendly university. That’s an upgrade from the silver they got in 2012.

Also, did you know U-PASS holders can get $10 off an annual Pronto membership?

UW will celebrate the new recognition with League President Andy Clarke Thursday when they kick off their annual “Ride in the Rain” commute challenge.

Here’s the press release from UW:

League of American Bicyclists President Andy Clarke will visit UW’s Seattle campus on at 7 p.m. Thursday to kick off the annual November “Ride in the Rain” bike commute challenge with a talk on how universities are catalysts for the creation of bicycle-friendly communities. Clarke will present the Gold award to UW Associate Vice President for Facilities Services Charles Kennedy at the event in Architecture Hall Auditorium. Following the talk, SDOT director Scott Kubly, Cascade Bicycle Club executive director Elizabeth Kiker, Pronto! Cycle Share executive director Holly Houser, and UW Faculty member and Green Futures Lab director Nancy Rottle will join Clarke for a panel discussion on current progress and the path forward for bicycling at the UW and around the region. Members of the press and the public are invited to attend this important conversation, and to help kick off Cascade Bicycle Club’s “Ride in the Rain 2014.”

“This is a conversation that is happening at campuses and in communities across the U.S. and the University of Washington is proud to be taking the lead,” UW Transportation Services Director Josh Kavanagh said. UW earned a Silver level recognition from the Bicycle Friendly University Program in 2012.

The “Ride in the Rain” challenge, a UW signature program that was key to claiming the gold award, encourages year-round bicycle commuting by transforming the month of November into an epic bike-stravaganza with events, classes, prizes and friendly competition. Started in 2004 as an event for UW commuters, the challenge has grown to include staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital and is hosted for the first time this year by the Cascade Bicycle Club.

UW’s Gold award recognizes the many campus programs and initiatives dedicated to encouraging cycling — from the more than 1,500 high security bicycle parking spaces (5,700 bicycle parking spaces overall), to a free bicycle valet service offered at Husky home football games. In addition, sustained efforts to improve bicycling conditions on campus have identified challenges and opportunities for the future. Successful collaboration between UW departments has produced a new design to improve and preserve the Burke-Gilman Trail as a critical regional connector, and the UW is currently working to acquire the funding needed to build all 1.7 miles of the new design.

With the recent launch of Pronto! Cycle Share, getting on a bike on campus has never been easier. Members of the university’s U-PASS transportation options program get a $10 discount on annual Pronto membership, which allows them to take an unlimited number of rides between the seven Pronto stations on campus, as well as to stations downtown, in South Lake Union, and on Capitol Hill. Rides are free to members for up to 30 minutes, and clean helmets to borrow are provided at the stations.

“We are proud to assist an ever-increasing number of students, staff, and faculty to get to – and around – campus on bicycles,” UW President Michael K. Young said. “This award is a reflection of the hard work and strong coordination of staff all over campus. We’re proud to have earned Gold and excited about future improvements in the works. The best is yet to come!”

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12 responses to “No TIGER grant for Burke-Gilman Trail + UW is now a gold-level bike friendly campus”

  1. Doug Bostrom

    Odd that the UW has money to demolish and replace dorms in the NE part of campus despite seemingly nobody willing to admit being in favor of the project (there’s no grass roots demand for the “upgrade” and the result will be increased housing costs for students), yet the BG work is going begging.

    1. Eli

      How is that odd?

      Are you saying the UW has the ability to build the BGT as a toll road and repay their investments, like they can in building new dorms?

      1. Doug Bostrom

        It’s an odd stacking of priorities.

        In the case of the dorms, the UW has chosen to expend major capital on making dorms less affordable for students, despite student residents of those dorms not expressing any desire to be evicted for the duration of the construction, with subsequent tenants ending up paying more for the same functionality of the living space.

        In the case of the B-G trail, the UW is letting the facility languish and degrade despite it clearly being a means of avoiding the much higher costs of infrastructure attendant to handling the daily flux of automobiles involved with UW commuting.

        As Children’s Hospital has shown, it’s possible to invest a relatively modest amount of money on pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure upgrades to produces decades’ lower expenditure for both their employees and the facility itself.

        So yes, it’s odd that the UW of all places should not have its holistic thinking cap on when stacking priorities.

  2. Guy Wailson

    I wish an enterprising journalist would do an analysis on infrastructure spending by the UW and expose this for the complete horsesh*t that it is. The real reason they don’t want to upgrade the trail is because it provides them no direct benefit and unless they are pushed to do so they won’t move on it. What I don’t understand is that they aren’t even maintaining it. The trail along the east side of campus is nearing criminal negligence it is so root laden. I saw a three year old get bucked off of his bike this summer when he hit a massive tree root.

    1. Doug Bostrom

      I think the UW fails to miss their direct benefit from the B-G, perhaps because they’re not held accountable for their impact on regional transport, pollution footprint, “liveability.”

      Children’s Hospital serves as an example of what can happen when an organization has a powerful incentive to revolutionize their employee commuting habits. Further expansion of the hospital depended in large part on seriously addressing the impact of their commuting workforce. Children’s is now very much focused on bringing their workforce close enough to make commuting a matter of walking and biking. The hospital has done more than pay lip service to the objective of revolutionizing workforce commuting behaviors, because all talk and no action wasn’t going to bring them the planning permission they needed to achieve their objectives.

  3. Meredith

    I’m with the first two commentors, UW seems to find money for all sorts of capitol projects (dorms, the new stadium, the new business school) whenever it suits them or they think they’ll make a buck. They can replace yet more dorms this year but can’t find the money for simple trail improvements? Right…

  4. Jim

    Why is UW responsible for the BGT? Are they responsible for roads that run near campus too? It should be treated like a road and when it becomes dangerous and impassable, it should be improved and upgraded just like a typical road.

    1. UW, just like all the other odd organizations responsible for the BGT, is responsible because it owns the land. UW similarly owns the land under many roads and walkways on campus, but not ones merely near campus. City streets are owned by the city.

      The BGT used to be a freight rail corridor, and as is common on freight rail corridors, the railroad never owned all the land, instead having an easement allowing it to operate on others’ land. What happens when railroads are abandoned can be complicated and contentious, with one recent dispute over a rails-to-trails project going all the way to the Supreme Court!

      Few land owners aside from transportation departments allow or encourage significant auto through-traffic on land they own. But many odd land owners do this for bike paths. IIRC some parts of the BGT are owned by parks departments of Seattle and King County, some by SDOT, some by UW, and some by private land owners. Similarly, I think the Terminal 91 path is owned in parts by the Seattle parks department and the Port of Seattle. I’m not totally sure about this, but I think Seattle City Light owns part of the Interurban Trail and much of the Chief Sealth Trail. So, of course, trail standards vary considerably (UW makes a basic attempt to light the BGT at night, while the parks department does nothing on the trails it owns), and there’s no uniform framework to prioritize maintenance or improvements.

  5. Charles B

    I fail to understand why the city isn’t looking into fixing the BGT as it exists within the city limits. Pretty much the whole length of it is in need of an upgrade (even if you exclude what is needed for the missing link).

    Why aren’t we making this part of the bridging the gap levy? Hoping to be lucky on the TIGER grant lottery seems like a pretty bad strategy.

    1. The city is limited in what it can do directly because it doesn’t own much of the land. UW, of course, has its own priorities.

      I think it would be perfectly appropriate for the city to fund BGT surface improvements but I doubt they want to pour money into UW’s extravagant plan. And even if it would be appropriate, Seattle is so far behind on transportation infrastructure maintenance it’s unlikely to spend its own money for maintenance of someone else’s property when it has plenty of needs on its own.

  6. Stuart Strand

    Too bad. A worthy proposal killed by a lack of funds in a stingy time. The UW should respond as a true green leader by fixing the surface of the BGT, fixing the deficiencies of the bike detour (Mason Rd and the circus-like 15th and Stevens Way intersection) ,and finding a cheaper renovation plan. Keep the Pend Oreille underpass and resurface the rest as first priorities. Give bikes the right of way if nothing else.

  7. biliruben

    I’m frankly a bit disappointed by UW and their failure to seize multiple opportunities that would be environmentally friendly and improve the serious traffic and parking problems in and around the university.

    I understand that their are under constant financial strain, with the State decreasing their contribution to the university from something like 80% down to 20% over the last 30 years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t taker a medium to longer-term view that might very likely save money, with very modest investments.

    Their biking and walking connections to the main shopping mall, U-village are absolutely abysmal, and it wouldn’t take much to get students and staff off the buses and out of their cars.

    Their Upass program (which even in it’s current lame incarnation is constantly under threat) is next to useless for someone like me who bikes 70% of the time and buses 30% of the time. When you see Children’s, The Hutch and other major employers giving free bus passes to their employees and even giving bonuses to those who don’t drive, but UW only subsidizing student and faculty transportation primarily with parking discounts, and anyone not a full-time bus rider getting pretty much nothing, it’s pretty discouraging.

    I don’t really know who makes these decisions, but they don’t make a lot of sense in this day and age.

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