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City Light project will close Burke-Gilman Trail from U Bridge to I-5

UW-BGT_1_12_2015Seattle City Light is moving work on their trial-aligned power upgrade project west to connect to the power station under I-5. This means anyone using the trail should be prepared for a detour starting January 17 and continuing through mid-February.

The good news is that City Light has changed its mind and will create a temporary trail detour on NE Pacific and NE 40th Streets. As we reported previously, the original plan was to just detour trail users into the general traffic lanes on these sometimes busy streets. We argued that it was irresponsible to send trail users — many of whom are new to biking or are children — into shared traffic lanes. It’s great to see the project planners change their minds and create a smart detour concept.

However, be ready to go extra slow and bike single file. Some sections of the detour trail will only be eight feet wide, which will be a tight fit when passing people biking in the other direction. People walking will have their own detour, so that should help with the squeeze.

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Details from Seattle City Light:

Seattle City Light is continuing its electrical reliability and capacity upgrade of the system feeding the University of Washington (UW). The project has required intermittent detours of the Burke-Gilman Trail while underground conduit is installed between City Light’s substation near I-5 and the UW’s substation near 15th Ave NE.

This last phase of conduit installation will require detour of the trail between Latona Avenue NE in Wallingford and Adams Lane near the University Bridge. See Burke-Gilman detour map. The work has a planned start date of this Saturday, January 17 and will last until approximately mid-February, 2015.

Pedestrians will be detoured onto sidewalks while cyclists will be detoured onto pre-existing designated bike lanes and lanes to be set apart in current traffic lanes. In the latter case, cones bolted to the asphalt will separate cyclists from traffic. For roadway adjustments to protect bicyclists, see Burke-Gilman Trail detour insets on map . Signage will direct cyclists and pedestrians at waypoints along the detour route. See Burke-Gilman Trail detour signage example. 

Westbound motorists on NE 40th Street will not be permitted to turn left onto NE Pacific Street at 5th Avenue NE to accommodate the new temporary lanes for cyclists. Traffic will be detoured there and can rejoin westbound NE Pacific Street at Latona Avenue NE.

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20 responses to “City Light project will close Burke-Gilman Trail from U Bridge to I-5”

  1. Dave F

    Too bad we can’t make the “cones bolted to the pavement” for the detour into a permanent protected bike lane. I wish we had a rule that detours have to be turned into new (permanent) bike lanes after projects like this. Then we could leverage this type of disruption into infrastructure that is better than before.

    1. Josh

      I wouldn’t want to make a substandard-width two-way sidepath become permanent, but where there’s room for a safe, BMP-compliant facility, temporary detours could certainly function as pilot projects to check the impact on traffic flow and evaluate any unforseen hazards or potential improvements.

    2. There really isn’t any great point to the temporary path after the Burke is back open, and closing one direction of the street to motor vehicles is a real (though not overwhelming) disruption. If construction detours had to be made permanent they’d be subject to so much extra scrutiny and opposition that they wouldn’t be done at all. It would be more useful to insist this much attention be paid to bike and pedestrian detours for all the other construction projects in Seattle, public and private.

  2. Daniel

    This is ridiculous. This new project means that from the I-5 bridge to Mason Rd. there is over a mile of detour. I’m trying to imagine any street in Seattle that could be shut down for a mile and not incite rage from motorists.

    My fear is that we won’t even get it all back. The UW construction is going to take two years and a lot can happen in that time.

    And what about the improvements they were supposed to make to the trail back in December? Did that ever happen?

    The Burke is our highway and it keeps getting shut down to accommodate other agendas.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Agreed that some of the detours have been rough. But another way to look at it is that City Light is doing this work now while UW closures are happening so that we get a bunch of Burke closures out of the way at the same time. If only they had received that TIGER grant and could do the trail rebuild now, too…

  3. Stuart Strand

    This sounds like a change from the email sent out Jan 9 by UW Transportation Services, specifically whether there will be trail access on the ramp behind the Publication Services Building. Quoting from the Jan 9 email: “During work on this section of the trail, the pedestrian ramp behind the Publication Services Building between 7th Avenue NE and 8th Avenue NE will remain open, however the stairway and switchback walkway behind Benjamin Hall will be closed.”

    The ramp joins the trail west of the U bridge, so I am concerned that the ramp will be closed after all, eliminating access to Ben Hall Building and Publication Services from the north.

    1. Stuart Strand

      BTW, the Ben Hall Building is an interdisciplinary research lab housing oceanography, ecological, plant and advanced physics and engineering research. Pedestrian and bicyclist access from the central campus to the north and on the BGT by our students and scientific staff is important.

  4. Matthew Snyder

    I’m trying to be optimistic, but based on the way this project has been managed thus far, I’m expecting the worst. Every step of the City Light project has been way behind schedule, has had misleading or flat out wrong detour signage, and has featured parked City Light vehicles blocking the bike detours. At least this time they’re trying to get out in front with advance notice of the closure, which I appreciate.

    I hope there’s a flagger or police presence on the detour at the intersection of 6th Ave NE and lower NE 40th (under the I-5 bridge). That’s currently a 3-way stop with somewhat limited visibility due to the large support walls for the trail overpass. My guess is that most cyclists will be going straight through that intersection (i.e., just trying to get back on the trail), whereas a good fraction of the car/truck traffic turns there to get down to the waterfront/Northlake. This creates a situation where eastbound car traffic wanting to turn right has to turn across the cycletrack. Westbound traffic has to cross it turning left. If everyone stops and takes their turn, it might work, but let’s be honest, that’s not gonna happen, especially at the bottom of a hill where cyclists are likely tempted to try to maintain speed to get back up to the trail level.

  5. […] – Heads up, Burke-Gilman trail users, there will be closures under I-5 starting in mid-January, so be prepared for the detour. […]

  6. William Wilcock

    I do not mind the detours but I do think that Seattle City Light should be compelled to get a move on. Many days there is virtually activity on this project which would not be tolerated if they were blocking a major road If they were forced to pay a penalty for every day the trail was closed, they would probably get this done in less than half the time.

  7. Jill Bodnar

    I rode through the new detour and cycletrack today and the concern about the intersection at 6th and 40th is exactly what I foresee happening. On a rainy Saturday there weren’t many cars or cyclists, but the cars that did go through were already confused about the detour and not looking for westbound cyclists as they turned left/south to Northlake. Same with cars heading north out of Northlake. So many orange signs and posts, everyone is distracted.

    All cars and bikes needing to stop at the intersection will cause inevitable backups and even more impatience, reminiscent of the failed UW all-stop experiment at the B-G and Pend Oreille intersection. I shudder to think what it will be like when it’s dark and the cars are even less likely to see cyclists. I highly recommend that Seattle PD have a traffic officer there to direct traffic flow and provide some order to potential chaos.

    I stopped to explain my concerns to a friendly Seattle PD officer stationed along the trail who appreciated my observations and said he’d bring them up at their meeting. There is supposed to be an officer posted at that intersection, but not to direct traffic flow.

  8. AW

    I rode eastbound through the detour site and as Jill mentioned, it is quite confusing right at the bottom of the hill. If you look across the intersection there is a set of tightly spaced cones that indicate to me that the lane is closed and I should not enter. This was confusing as I expected the bike detour go to that way. There is also a detour sign pointing right (towards Northlake) which also confused me as I wasn’t expecting the bike detour to go that way. In the end I popped up on the sidewalk on 40th and realized that the “closed” lane was really the bike lane.

    The people who did the signage clearly only considered car traffic and ignored the bicycle traffic. Which makes no sense given this is a bike detour !

    As for the 3 way stop, it was quiet this morning but I can definitely see someone getting hit by turning cars.

    1. AW

      I submitted a service request for this on Seattle.gov although I have no idea how responsive they are, especially on a holiday such as today.

  9. Zack

    This morning I witnessed a car driving East bound on the Burke ostensibly to avoid the long queue of cars. They were on the stretch between Latona and I-5, I assume they got on at Latona since there are no bollards blocking the entrance. Luckily cyclists are asked to exit/enter the trail West of that point so there was no one around other than construction workers watching in amazement. I have no clue where the driver thought he was going to exit the trail.

    1. AW

      The whole thing is a mess. Riding in this morning (eastbound) I saw 2 confused bikers trying to figure out what to do at the 3 way stop at the bottom of the hill – they followed the detour sign which sent them the wrong way (under the bridge to Northlake). And with a 3 way stop sign there and lots of traffic, someone is going to get hurt. Be it a biker who doesn’t stop at the sign or a driver who doesn’t see a biker going through when holding the right of way.

      Going the other way last night (westbound) the bike lane is not marked at all so I instinctively settled on the right hand lane only to see an oncoming car.

      It sounds like it is going to be this way for weeks, if not months. It needs a bike detour sign pointing bikers in the right direction and some paint on the road to make the bike lane look like a bike lane.

      I will give them credit for making a nice ramp from Pacific street up to the BG trail.

  10. Stuart Strand

    This morning the trail is _not_ open between Adams and the Publications Services/Ben Hall ramp. Seattle DOT is still working on it. The detour at the three way stop under I5 is very bad, with absolutely no sight lines for north bound traffic.

    1. I second this. As a driver heading north under I5 (I knowww), I was surprised to see someone biking there. If at all possible, the stop lane for bikes should be forward into the intersection for visibility (the pillars block sightlines). A “Watch for Bikes” sign would be useful as well. Vehicles coming W on NE 40th St (the lower), were quite backed up. Not a great combination for an intersection that now has many more bikes in the mix.

  11. Stuart Strand

    This afternoon I rode home through the Adams to 7th construction zone (after the workers went home).
    Good news: the trail surface has been greatly improved with an asphalt cap over the old and heavily patched surface.
    Bad news: Still no communication with the bike riding/commuting community: when will this part of the trail be open? UW messages on these Seattle City Light detours have been less than helpful. Apparently there is not much communication between UW transportation services and Seattle DOT on this street work.
    Anyway I am hopeful that all will work out in the end with an improved BGT , but fear the detour under I5 leaves bikers very much at risk in next few weeks. A tragic possible accident could be avoided with a traffic officer on duty there during the day and improved signing and lighting at night.

  12. bill

    I just rode this detour westbound today. It is surprisingly bad and dangerous at 6th & NE 40th. Worst detour ever! I think it would be much safer westbound to take the lane on 40th and just make the cars wait while I climb the hill.

    Lower NE 40th and that block of 6th should be entirely closed to cars. There are plenty of alternative routes.

    Tom, you should establish a Seattle Bike Blog Flat Tire Award for infamous situations such as this. The only trouble is you might have to award it weekly.

  13. […] after the Seattle City Light Burke-Gilman Trail detour was put in place, readers started reporting confusion and concerns. Mostly, people were concerned about a multi-direction stop at 6th Ave NE where sightlines are […]

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