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Work begins next week on Arboretum Trail set to open late 2017

bridge_conceptconstruction_update-mapConstruction is set to begin Monday on a new trail along the western side of the Arboretum, providing a safe space for walking and biking next to Lake Washington Blvd and improving access to more of the Arboretum grounds.

Kicking off a year later than planned in early 2015 (PDF), construction on the $7.8 million trail is expected to take more than a year and a half, opening for use in December 2017.

Funded by WSDOT as part of the traffic mitigation efforts attached to the 520 Bridge replacement project, the trail has long been part of the Arboretum’s planning. On one hand, the project will become a part of the Arboretum’s trail system, restoring wetlands and allowing visitors to see parts of the park that have been inaccessible.

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But it will also become a popular bike route that connects to the new trail across the 520 Bridge (also opening in 2017) and to UW Station/the Burke-Gilman Trail via the Montlake Bridge.

With smart planning in the Montlake section of the 520 Bridge project, it could be possible to bike from the Burke-Gilman Trail to E Madison Street entirely on separated bike lanes and trails.

And if the city builds protected bike lanes on E Madison Street to the MLK junction, the new Arboretum Trail could connect to neighborhood bike routes into the Central District like the promising 27th Ave neighborhood greenway planned as part of the Madison BRT project. And since the 27th Ave greenway will connect to the existing neighborhood greenway on 25th Ave, which connects to the I-90 Trail and Beacon Hill and OMG EVERYONE IT’S ACTUALLY BECOMING A CONNECTED BIKE NETWORK.

Deep breath… alright. I got a little ahead of myself. First, crews gotta start work on the trail so it can be ready to ride by the end of 2017. Details from the construction notice (PDF):

On Monday, March 28, Ohno Construction crews will begin work on the new Loop Trail. Construction is scheduled to run through December 2017. The Arboretum will remain open during construction. Users will be re-routed around the construction activities via notifications and signage for the project duration. Construction can be disruptive, and we appreciate your patience as we improve the Arboretum.

Traffic impacts

  • Starting Monday, March 28 you will notice increased construction traffic turning from E Madison St on to Lake Washington Boulevard and along E 31st St (see location 1 on the map to the right).
  • You will see increased construction traffic turning on and off of Lake Washington Boulevard from the Birch Parking Lot (see location 3 on the map to the right).

Upcoming construction activities

  • From locations 1-2 on map to the right – Crews will stage in the Japanese Garden parking lot, install fencing, erosion control and begin surveying and shrub clearing.
  • From locations 2-3 on the map to right – crews will be surveying, brush clearing and staging into the Birch Lot at station 3.
  • From locations 1-3 on map to the right – Signage will be put in place to re-route pedestrians in and out of the Arboretum around the construction.

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13 responses to “Work begins next week on Arboretum Trail set to open late 2017”

  1. Gary

    meh, it’s missing a connection to the North which is a safe ride over to the UW/Montlake. Looks much more like a “strolling”, stroller, running trail than a bicycle route.

    Until that connection is in place, I’ll be riding on the surface streets to the West of the park.

    1. Ints

      That’s right, it is not an exclusive bicycles only route. As stated in the post it is for biking and walking, it’s a multi-use trail just like the BGT. May not be worth the trouble for you but I appreciate it and will use it as it is still a useful addition to the overall network for bicyclists and pedestrians.

  2. Joseph

    Are they serious?! The construction map shown above shows the northern end dumping users onto Arboretum Dr near the visitors center. I agree with Gary: that’s not a reasonable bike solution. (a) the road from Arboretum Dr to Lk Wash Blvd is absolutely terrible and I doubt repaving is part of this plan. (b) what do you do once you reach Lk Wash Blvd? Neither safe nor friendly. Freeway onramp (unless changed), and narrow street with no shoulder.

    Tom, I’m struggling to understand why you’re so excited about this. Am I missing something? I don’t see how it’s CONNECTED.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      The map doesn’t show it & design isn’t final, but the Montlake 520 plans include a trail connection. Will it be ready when this one opens? Not sure yet.

    2. Dr Phooey

      The 520 off ramp is gone, and the on-ramp eventually will go away. As Tom noted, the whole area is eventually going to be redesigned, and _should_ be more bike friendly, including a big park on a freeway lid.

      Maybe. :-)

      I attended some of the community meetings when the trail was introduced to the neighbors: the designers were very clear that the primary users were NOT bike commuters, but families and park visitors. IIRC, even the surface (at the time) was going to be some rougher paving in order to discourage fast riding, and they were planning sharpish curves for the same “traffic-calming” purpose.

      Since Lake Washington boulevard should see a big decrease in traffic once all freeway traffic is going through Montlake (BTW, do have a warm thought for the local Montlake residents who are going to be mega impacted with this shift…) I do think that commuting by cycle, either going S or N, is going to be a lot more pleasant on the road itself.

      1. I think the last Montlake Lid design I looked at showed a ramp connecting straight to Lake Washington Boulevard. Not right in the park like the current ones, but up by the lid. If that’s the case, the Arboretum Bypass Speedway will remain open to drivers. Which is… bad for bike commuters in the Arboretum but good for bus riders in the Central District?

        Maybe the road through the park should be for park visitors and families only, too. Like a special HOV lane: two or more generations required to pass through the park (spurring a cross-generational ride-sharing app that pairs drivers with riders of generations that are stereotypically different, then records their awkward and/or heartwarming conversations and posts them online… this leading to some kind of twisted “If You Like Piña Coladas” scenario where a jaded Millenial unknowingly meets his mother through the app, just before running her over while looking for the pick-up spot, because he’s responding to her text message in the app).

      2. Josh

        If you want to encourage park use only, and promote pedestrian convenience and safety, post and enforce a 15 mph speed limit.

        At crosswalks, reverse the usual priorities: install a full traffic signal; traffic light is red, and crosswalk has a WALK, until a vehicle stops over a sensor at the crosswalk and waits for a green light.

        Use crosswalk enforcement cameras, dedicate the revenue to pedestrian safety improvements around the city.

      3. asdf2

        “Since Lake Washington boulevard should see a big decrease in traffic once all freeway traffic is going through Montlake”

        From the plans I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure that’s really going to be the case. In think, in practice, drivers that currently take Lake Washington Blvd. to 520 will just stay on Lake Washington Blvd. another block west until they intersect Montlake, then get on the freeway there. It’s essentially little more than cutting it line to get to Montlake/520 intersection ahead of people who use Montlake.

        Unless physical barriers are erected to prevent thru-traffic on Lake Washington Blvd. (or speed bumps every couple hundred feet to enforce a 15 mph speed limit), I think drivers are just going to keep on using it as a shortcut to and from the freeway.

  3. I’m all for this great connection/extension of separated bike paths. And I’m all for spending tons of money to build tons of separated bike infra.

    (Including the mixed-mode stroller/walker/runner kind disparaged regularly in these comments, cause I would far rather have that than take the lane.)

    But: how on earth does this cost 7.8M? I’m a little stunned at that price.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It’s not just a bike trail. It’s a park addition. It also has a bunch of boardwalks through wetlands, etc.

  4. judy d’cash

    Great news, and thanks for keeping us updated!

  5. William

    “OMG EVERYONE IT’S ACTUALLY BECOMING A CONNECTED BIKE NETWORK”. Well if you keep on building ad hoc segments, eventually a few will have to join up. Why for once can’t we actually build a set of interconnected segments at the same time rather than forever hoping that eventually they will be connected?

  6. asdf2

    In an ideal world, I would like to see Lake Washington Blvd. closed to cars completely, except for local access to the arboretum parking lots. The arboretum would be a significantly more enjoyable place to visit if the traffic noise from Lake Washington Blvd. could be removed. Nearly all of the cars that use it is thru-traffic headed to/from the U-district and SR-520 that could easily use take Madison St. to Montlake Blvd. instead.

    I would implement this by converting the existing northbound lane of Lake Washington Blvd. into a bike path, making the street one-way for cars. I would also add a couple of vehicle barriers to keep the road for local access only, rather than thru traffic.

    But, in the practical world we live in, I will take what we can get.

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