OK, had to get that out of my system.
As frustrating and drawn out as the seemingly endless Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link debate has been in recent decades (yes, decades!), we have never been this close to finally connecting the trail and saving an average of two people every month from emergency-response-generating bike crashes along the 1.4-mile gap in the vital regional trail.
Be sure to show up to at least one of two upcoming open houses this week: 6 – 9 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday, both at Leif Erikson Hall. You can also email comments to [email protected].
If you want to get caught up from square one without reading a bunch of stuff, the goods folks at Peddler Brewing put together this video:
Studied to death (and then some)
“We’ve evaluated this project about as much as we possibly can,” project planner Mark Mazzola told the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board during a recent meeting. That’s a huge understatement.
The latest study clocks in at 829 pages, which can be added to the existing 1,848 pages of studies (and that’s just what’s online) for a total of 2,677 pages. That’s a full page of study for every 2.8 feet of trail. If you laid the pages on the ground, you could go from end zone to end zone on a football field nearly nine times. You could read Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace two times and still fall 227 pages short of the Missing Link page count.
So if you’re exhausted by this process, just think of the person who had to evaluate this trail’s potential impact on the threatened marbled murrelet or yellow-billed cuckoo (no impact expected, the author notes, “due to lack of suitable habitat” in this industrial zone. Phew.).
Yet while the city is forced to waste time and money studying the trail as though it were a new freeway or airport, real life people keep getting hurt. Just two days ago, I received this email:
I was walking through the Ballard Sunday Market today, and couldn’t help but be angered by signs encouraging people to vote NO on completing the missing link because it would cancel the market. That seems very misleading to me, and I hope you can counter that argument with accurate information.
As I was heading back to Fremont, I noticed a man trying to wrangle a woman who appeared to have passed out. He said she had crashed on her bike on the tracks and had hit her head. I called 911 for him at his request. She woke up and appeared to be all right, conversing with the medics by the time I left. How much longer must this go on?
We can’t delay any longer. Injuries like this should not be happening. We know the problem, we know how to fix it, we have the money to do it and we have strong public will. JUST BUILD IT ALREADY.
Ballard Farmers Market concerns
If, like Lauri, you were among the many thousands of people who went to the Sunday Farmers Market in Ballard in recent weeks, you may have seen signs warning that one of the trail options would “close” the market.
In reality, the market would probably close the trail every Sunday if that option were somehow selected, which is also a bad outcome. That’s one of several reasons we called this the “strangest” option in the study.
Hopefully people who saw this messaging understand that this was simply studied as part of this exhaustive process and that essentially nobody wants the trail to go down historic Ballard Ave.
Ballard Ave is more like a festival street, a place perfect for public events that can serve slow-moving traffic outside of these special events. People accessing businesses or community events is the primary purpose of the street, and that’s exactly how it should be. For this reason, access to and from the trail is vital since a completed trail will open the business district to hundreds or thousands more people arriving by bike (expanded bike parking is already on the ground there thanks to a community plan and support from SDOT).
There are certainly opportunities for better traffic calming to make the street even safer and make the space even more plaza-like. But a regional trail just seems like the wrong tool on Ballard Ave itself.
The study’s authors dove deep into potential traffic impacts from the trail and found that the Shilshole South option (basically the option the city has been trying to build all along) would actually improve freight traffic movement in the area. And to think a handful of industrial businesses have spent lots of money (and forced the city to spend lots of money) fighting this trail in court.
In fact, the option with the biggest impact to freight movement is the Leary/Market option proposed by the appellants. Chew on that for a second.
I would hope this new information changes the appellants’ feelings on the trail, but I’m not holding my breath. At this point, I feel like it’s more about winning a fight than doing what’s best for public safety, Ballard businesses or regional transportation.
If there was ever a real public debate over the Missing Link, it was over many years ago. Here’s a recap of public comments from an early phase of this study:
JUST BUILD THE TRAIL.