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Finally, movement on court-required Missing Link study + 98.6% voice support for trail

After somehow spending a year and a half to “finish analyzing the feedback from the EIS scoping process held in late 2013,” the city is holding an open house to present the plan to develop a study of options to finally complete the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The draft of that study won’t be out until 2016.

In the meantime, the city had to return a $1 million Federal Highway Administration grant and a $500,000 WA State Safe Routes to School Grant it had won for the Missing Link due to lack of progress on the project. The cost of the completely absurd amount of delay on this trail boggles the mind. What’s even more maddening is that 98.6 percent of people who responded to the 2013 outreach process voiced support for completing the trail. No, I didn’t typo that number. More on that below.

The open house is 6–8 p.m. June 18 at Ballard High School. More details from an event flier:

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BGT ML open house invite

The most unnecessary study in Seattle history

I dare you to find an issue where 98.6 percent of engaged Seattle residents agree. Do not be fooled, there is no actual debate about whether we should or should not complete the Ballard Missing Link. Out of 1,122 letters received during the “EIS scoping” phase in 2013, all but 16 letters supported completing the trail (PDF).

In fact, there’s not even a debate over where the trail should go. It’s overwhelming: People want it to follow the path of least resistance along the train alignment next to Shilshole Ave, exactly where the city has planned it for the past 20 years:

BGTEISScopingSummary-preferenceAnd what is the primary goal of the project? No contest: Safety.

BGTEISScopingSummary-safetyBut because obstructionist appellants have taken the city’s plan to court every possible step of the way (at no small cost), we are going to spend a bunch of money studying three alternatives for the trail in great detail. What a waste of everyone’s time and money. This is the public process run completely off the tracks. In fact, this has to be the most egregious misuse of the environmental impact process in Seattle history.

At this point, we could have just taken the cash we’ve spent, ground it up, mixed in some cement and paved the whole trail with it (remember, mix two parts crushed currency, one part cement).

But seriously, this is embarrassing, Seattle. It should be especially embarrassing for the Ballard Business Appellants, including Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce and Ballard Oil. Unless they are proud of wasting so much money fighting something that has 98.6 percent support.

And every day that goes by without a fix more people are injured trying to connect the abrupt ends of the trail or trying to access the Ballard business district. These are real people, breaking real bones and scraping real skin. This isn’t a game. This trail should have been fixed by now. People are getting hurt for no reason.

Somebody please end this madness. Don’t make us do this whole study and waste another year (at least). It would be much better to spend this money and time finalizing details on a trail design that addresses business concerns so we can finally build a safe, connected trail that works for everyone.

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39 responses to “Finally, movement on court-required Missing Link study + 98.6% voice support for trail”

  1. Richard

    “…holding an open house to present the plan to develop a study of options to finally complete the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail. The draft of that study won’t be out until 2016.”


  2. Andres Salomon

    I do hope people are boycotting these businesses. Despite not owning a car, my house (embarrassingly) runs on oil. Ballard Oil was an option as a supplier, but I took them out of the running due to their lawsuit.

    1. Indeed, the Ballard Chamber should realize they can’t have it both ways. Biking is essential to Ballard, and if they’d like the (approximately) 1 million bikes to keep visiting Seafood Fest, they should get their position right.

    2. kptrease

      Andres, did you call them up and let them know? Just a bit of friendly feedback.

  3. Todd

    If you are a biker, you owe it to yourselves and every other biker to ride the missing link hard, as often as you can, and bring your friends. If the businesses don’t like the idea of a trail going through there, make your presence felt so they get a better understanding of what it’s like not to have a trail running through their neighborhood.

    1. Richard

      I made the effort. My wife took one look at the injury rate along that segment and noped out. (She doesn’t do street riding; if there’s no trail or protected lane, she’s not on it).

      1. Todd

        I get that. My wife was very tentative as well and prefers not to ride it but I did have some success taking her on it. But my coworker and I actually go out of our way to ride down to the locks and through the missing link whenever we can.

  4. Matt

    I can’t help but look at another “Best Cities for Biking” list that we were left off and want to pull my hair out. We keep dropping on Bicycling magazine, Walkscore and the recent Copenhagenize put Minneapolis at 17 and gave honorable mentions to NYC, Chicago, Portland, DC and Philadelphia. Besides Minneapolis, I have spent time living/biking in all of those cities and we have just so much more potential. The “Seattle Process” is killing us on a public transit front and of course for cycling. Fixing the Missing Link and the Ballard Bridge would do wonders to this city in terms of cycling and I truly think it would double the number of people riding. It’s one of the only flat neighborhoods and so many people are moving there. Stop the surveys and the open houses and get it done already!

  5. Alyssa

    Every time I see Salmon Bay supplying material for a SDOT project, it drives me mad. They are one of the main suppliers in town, but surely there has to be a way around it?

    1. Todd

      Right through their parking lot.

    2. mike archambault

      Dang that’s a good point. Could the council just vote to exclude Salmon Bay from all city contracts? With so much public support for the trail I feel like this could actually pass. Maybe the seattlebikeblog legal team could look into whether this would stand up in court!

      1. GlenBikes

        I will buy a beer for every one of the Seattle Bike Blog legal team :)

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Ha! I wouldn’t trust anything that comes from the SBB legal team.

        Legal or not, though, this isn’t a good idea. Businesses of this size are much more than their leadership. People work there and depend on those jobs, etc. Not only would it probably not get far, but you’d lose a whole lot of public support attacking a business like that.

        Really, the business leaders should see the light and focus on making the trail work for them rather just keep saying no to 98.6% of people who care about it. Invest that legal money in the business and their workforce instead. Add it to the end of year bonus (if there is one). If I were a worker there, I’d be pissed about this waste of money.

      3. Richard

        Tom, I get that point, and it is a good one. But on the other hand, there’s good argument that, even ignoring the bike perspective, there’s still good reason to stop supporting the business. At this point, this organized obstructionism is responsible for dozens of citizens injured, tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of dollars in legal costs, and the loss of grants totaling at *least* $1.5M. How does it make sense to continue supporting a business that costs you so much?

  6. Law Abider

    I’ve consolidated the “alternates”:

    Alternate 1: Build the fucking trail already. Build it along the predetermined route on Shilshole, next to the railroad track. Start building it yesterday and get it done ASAP.

    Alternate 2: There is no Alternate 2.

    Then the City (or Cascade maybe?) should put out a full page ad in the Times publicly shaming the couple of companies that deliberately obstructed the project, along with the amount of money wasted by the public. City should also include rising construction costs in the last 20 years, plus money lost from the Feds. Include phone numbers and emails of the owners of these companies so the public can express their opinions directly to them.

    I wouldn’t be completely opposed to a lawsuit against the companies for lost money, but I don’t think it would be successful and may just serve to further delay the project and add cost.

    1. Law Abider

      Also to be included in the full page ad: number of injuries/accidents along the route, including estimated medical costs and property damage.

    2. Peri Hartman

      I doubt the city can use public money for political advertising (don’t know if this falls in that category). But we can! Tom, what do you think of starting a kickstarter or other fund raiser to put out some bus ads or other ads? I’d support.

  7. AW

    Is there any information about the three alternate routes that are being proposed ?

    I’d love to see the city propose converting the whole roadway on Shilshole to bikes and pedestrians. Make the people in the businesses have to walk for blocks to get to work. That will get their attention.

    1. Kirk

      I’m hoping the three alternate routes are the same three alternate routes already studied ad nauseam. The Red Route (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pdf/BlueRoutePhotos2.pdf), the Blue Route (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pdf/BlueRoutePhotos2.pdf) and the Green Route (http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/pdf/GreenRoutePhotos2.pdf).

      These were studied extensively in 2003. Read all about it here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bgt_ballard.htm

  8. kptrease

    I completely agree the delays are moronic, and when this is built, I’ll ride it like crazy.

    I do still think that a route along Ballard then Market would a dramatically more useful route for everyone. It would not only connect two end points, it would provide destinations along the way.

    I’d love to see them both get built, of course.

    1. Richard

      No, it would not improve the route for “everyone”. It would not serve a huge portion of the users of the burke-gilman trail, many of whom ride it specifically because it is insulated from motor vehicle traffic. My wife and son would not ride it.

      I’d LOVE to see a market street lane. That would be awesome for me! But it would absolutely NOT serve the largest purpose of the burke-gilman.

      1. kptrease

        I should have been more specific. I’m talking about a PBL along Ballard, then Market. Would that not suit your needs? It would make the through traffic happy, and would make the non-through traffic happy.

      2. Richard

        My needs? Sure. Not the burke-gilman needs, though.

    2. Tom Fucoloro

      The Burke-Gilman Trail is for walking, biking, roller blading, learning to bike, commuting, getting exercise, and on and on. It’s not just a bike route. This idea that a bikeway on Leary and Market (which would be great!) would be an “alternative” to completing the trail is missing the point. This isn’t just about people biking. It’s a multi-use trail.

      It’s not rare to see people pushing strollers or wheeling wheelchairs down the interim bike lanes. They would not be served by bike lanes on Leary and Market.

      And even if those bike lanes are completed, Shilshole will STILL be dangerous for biking and will STILL need to be made safer. Because the existence of a bike lane a few blocks away does not make Shilshole safe. It’s the most direct route, and people will continue biking and walking there.

      The Leary/Market “alternative” is a distraction. It’s not a way to complete the trail.

      1. kptrease

        Again, I’d love to have both. But, they should be built in the opposite order. The ship has sailed, and I understand that redoing everything at this point would not be helpful. So, I can get on board with the distraction argument.

        But, a complete streets treatment would accomplish all you’re talking about on Ballard and Market, and would go where many users actually want to go. A much much larger number of users of all kinds want to go to places along Ballard and Market than want to go to places along Shilshole. And the users who want to get from the locks to Fremont will still be able to.

      2. kptrease

        In other words, don’t focus on the “alternative” that some of the business owners have proposed – they’re trolls, and we shouldn’t pay attention to them. We also shouldn’t let the fact that they’re trolls force us to not consider how awesome Ballard+Market would be as a complete street.

      3. Richard

        Sure, I can agree that a good development along market would be cool – but as you pointed out, that discussion really has nothing to do with the burke-gilman (other than a vague geographical similarity).

      4. kptrease

        No, I’m talking about connecting from the current endpoint at 17th, up Ballard, down Market, to the locks. It would connect the two current ends of the BG. And a bunch of stuff in between.

        It would be massively more expensive, I’m sure. It would be massively more useful than a connection along Shilshole. (Both would be more useful still, of course.) It would be massively contentious, but that doesn’t exactly distinguish it from the current plan.

    3. veganbiker

      A “protected bike lane” on Ballard Ave and then Market Street probably will not work due to:
      A. Ballard Ave has a Sunday market every Sunday of the year, so where would the PBL go on Sundays.
      B. Market St has bus routes that would make installing a PBL very difficult and costly.
      C. There is street parking on both streets, you have to think about how the PBL and street parking can fit into this idea.
      D. As has been mentiond before, the BGT is a multi-use trail, how can it suddenly turn into a PBL along the “Missing Link” section? Where do all the walkers, runners, scooters, roller skaters and wheel chairs go ?

      Let’s just finish the trail and get on with the next thing, like the Ballard Bridge.

      1. kptrease

        Yes, I misspoke. My idea would not just be a PBL. It would be a full complete streets treatment. Me, I’d cut out some parking and try to give the street back to people. No idea what could be done about bus routes, though.

        Surely the farmers market, mobile as it is, could be made to fit on a better street.

      2. Kirk

        Ballard Avenue is an Historic District with brick paved streets. There is very little chance a multi use trail will be built throught the length of it.

      3. kptrease

        Roughly a block total, split into three short sections, of Ballard ave is brick. The rest of the 4-5 block stretch is asphalt.

        Really, a historic district is more easily able to accommodate cars than a bike lane and good sidewalks with great ramps and curb bulbs? That’s nuts.

        Don’t think of it as a multi use trail. Think of it as a bike lane in the street (hopefully nicely protected) plus improvements in the sidewalk and the intersections.

        The farmers market would lose whatever the width of the bike lane is, but would gain a great bike route to the market.

        As far as Market goes, it’s six lanes in the stretch between Ballard and 24th (4 driving lanes plus 2 parking), with nice wide sidewalks already. Plenty of room for active use plus buses and cars. From 24th to the locks, it’s more like 4-5 lanes, with some stretches of very wide sidewalk already.

        There’s plenty of room, and to address the directness of the route argument, the extra distance of using Ballard looks to me to be a few blocks.

        I’m not saying there’s no argument against this route – the momentum of the Shilshole route (if you can call it that, having waited 20+ years so far) and the extra cost that Ballard + Market would likely entail aren’t nothing.

        But, the other objections people keep raising aren’t impressing me so far. And it’s not like the intransigence of the trolls based on the Shilshole route haven’t cost plenty of money as well, as Tom documents in this post.

  9. Donna

    Thank you for the article and the data. I have long felt that we should write the business owners’ mothers so they could talk some sense into them. I would feel so ashamed if one of them were my offspring. Surely there is a prize to be awarded to businesses that obstruct such public projects (including the entire BGT in the ’70s). Someone more clever than me would need to name it.

  10. […] the connection to the Burke-Gilman Trail may remain awkward and possibly dangerous due to the neverending legal wrangling over the Missing Link. If that trail had been completed by now, this greenway project could easily connect to it, […]

  11. Dave

    I bought my first house in Ballard in 1990. The missing link back then started at Gas Works Park. It was pretty tricky to get to the BGT from Ballard back then. (Anybody remember the sketchy tunnel under the Fremont Bridge?)

    Hard to believe that this last remaining section is still not done. It’s the one that should have been done first. How was the city able to build the 2nd Ave bike lane, which is arguably more disruptive to car traffic, and yet not finish off this hellish missing link?

    1. Kirk

      I remember that little tunnel under the Fremont bridge. Or was it just low and close girders? It was really tricky riding from Gas Works to Golden Gardens.
      I moved out to the UW in 1978 when the Burke Gilman Trail officially opened, and rode it almost every day. I remember the lower portion of the original trail along Northlake Way east of Gasworks. Cars, trucks and boat trailers would always park over the trail. You can still see portions of this trail segment if you go down there.

  12. […] Resources: Project Website 2003 Seattle City Council Resolution 30583 Seattle Bike Blog review of EIS scoping process […]

  13. […] As we reported previously, there is finally movement on the big environmental study that should put the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail on the path to construction. […]

  14. […] In August 2013, SDOT collected comments on what the scope of the EIS should be. An overwhelming majority of people supported an alignment on Shilshole Avenue NW, which would be the most direct connection, and the largest concern by far was for safety. Despite the clarity of the solution and community support behind building the trail as soon as possible, the EIS process will continue for at least another 18 months. Fucoloro has railed against the City of Seattle for taking so long. […]

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