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Pack these Ballard Missing Link meetings + Business owner’s video explains the options

Example cross-section from the Shilshole South Alternative
Example cross-section from the Shilshole South Alternative

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.

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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].

I’ve already given my take on the options. Cascade is pushing for three criteria: Simple, safe and connected. Seems reasonable.

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

IMG_1979If, 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.

Freight impacts

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:

2015_6_16_BGT_consolidated-graphsThe people have spoken. Many, many times. And they will say it again.


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24 responses to “Pack these Ballard Missing Link meetings + Business owner’s video explains the options”

  1. William

    “we have never been this close to finally connecting the trail”

    Well unless you believe it is never going to happen, this always true.

  2. Charles K

    I wish the Ballard Farmers Market sign designers would change their tactics to urge people to REJECT the Ballard Ave alternative and DEMAND the obvious Shilshole South Alternative that the majority has wanted all along for decades. The phrasing now makes it sound like Complete BGTML = No F Mkt, which is misleading. This has all been said above but I just wanted to say it harder, and to remind myself to say it nicely in person this Sunday.

    1. AW

      Is it possible that the people who are against the trail are using the Ballard Farmer’s Market people as their pawns ? I don’t know the players but the cynic in me is telling me this. Perhaps the Farmer’s market people need to be educated ?

    2. Ballard Resident

      Shouldn’t Cascade be at the market to educate people on this?

    3. Matthew Snyder

      I agree that some — not all, but some — of the the folks and the signage at the Ballard Farmers Market this past weekend were being a bit disingenuous about the whole thing. There were signs telling people about a “voting booth” at the end of the market (there isn’t actually a vote; it’s just public comment with a pre-ordained outcome), and that a trail or whatever on Ballard Ave would cause “adverse impacts” to “small businesses” on the street because they’d lose parking. I realize that a crowded market isn’t the best place for subtle messaging, but I definitely felt uncomfortable about the presentation, even though I agreed in spirit with the goals (and just to be clear, I don’t want the Burke-Gilman trail to run on Ballard Ave).

    4. kirk

      Perhaps the 195+ small businesses that “would close if the trail were built there” should touch base with the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. The Ballard Chamber of Commerce has obstructed the trail being built in the only logical place it should be, Shilshole South. AKA the Green Route, as it was called in the 2003 Ballard Corridor Design Study.

    5. Kevin Carrabine

      FYI, the ‘Save the Market’ organizers have heretofore tried to simply support the point of view that the trail does not belong on Ballard Ave, which should be pretty evident to all. I believe that several of the organizers of these efforts are in fact supportive of the Shilshole South route. They are deliberately not trying to tell ‘voters’ how to weigh in, but when asked, are pointing out the obvious merits of the SS route – less roadway crossings, more direct route, less disruption to overall Ballard traffic congestion, better intersection timings, etc. There are three more weeks of Sunday Ballard Market times prior to final comment deadline, so let’s see how things go.

  3. Andres Salomon

    Given everything else that is going on with the city and bike infrastructure right now, I don’t have much faith in this actually getting fixed. I predict minor pushback will cause us to delay even further, or pick a substandard/unsafe option.

    I would love to be proven wrong, but recent events do not inspire much confidence..

  4. Why does SDOT always proposed routes that turn turn turn. Doesn’t it just seem obvious to use Shilshole South? I’ve used that Ballard route to get to Ballard but to get to the Locks is a pain. Based on the route option it looks like it would require lots of repaving which I can only imagine SDOT is reluctant to do, otherwise why propose those other routes.

    I appreciate the videos showing the routes. It really puts the routes into perspective for a lot of people who have not tried it before. Thank you!

    1. Kirk

      Shirley, the other routes are only proposed to essentially eliminate them from consideration. It is a requirement to evaluate alternative routes for the Environmental Impact Statement. The city only wants to build the route on Shilshole South. But the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel and Ballard Oil have sued the city to obstruct its construction, even though the city owns the land, the route is safely designed and fully funded.

  5. Matthew Snyder

    I can’t help but feel like we’ve lost sight of the main obstacle here. It’s not deciding where the trail should go, it’s not advocating for City Council approval, it’s not getting funding to build the trail. It’s the legal challenge. That should be the main focus now, not the red herrings of alternative routes and the number of parking spots at play and all that nonsense.

    There’s a group of vocal people willing to show up at a public meeting to reaffirm what we’ve already decided — i.e., build the Shilshole South option. Wouldn’t their energy be better directed elsewhere? What if they spent the time talking to members of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, lobbying them to get the Chamber to change its opposition to the trail? What if they staged loud protests, “die-ins,” or other direct actions at the awful track crossing or in front of the obstructionists? I just don’t see the point of spending more time and energy “packing a meeting.” I have absolutely no desire to sit through three more hours of comment on this issue. I want to DO something about it.

    1. William C.

      +1. We need a different sort of action.

    2. kirk

      This EIS, these meetings, the alternate routes, are all just BS to fulfill the legal obligations put there by the hearing examiner, spurred by the BS lawsuits from the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel and Ballard Oil. And hopefully, finally, SDOT has figured out how to get the trail built on Shilshole South, the Green Route.

      But I agree, energies should be spent trying to change the minds of the Ballard C of C and their members that are bankrolling the obstruction. But what I’ve heard (from a Ballard C of C officer) is they are a bunch of stubborn old farts that will never change. They hold a grudge against the city and are happy to waste millions of their and our dollars. Ballard C of C hasn’t discussed this topic at their meetings for years, and they don’t pay a penny to participate.

      1. Andres Salomon

        Rather than playing whack-a-mole with every lawyered-up NIMBY who doesn’t want bike infrastructure built near them, I suggest approaching this at the state level. We can get laws passed so that bike (and walk/transit) projects can’t be held back by bullshit lawsuits. Right now the 43rd district is gearing up for elections, and the politicians in the running are pretty receptive to the opinions of the electorate.

        I’d planned to email some of the candidates about it (using examples like the Missing Link and the BMP/Westlake debacle). It would be great to get a formal campaign going from someone who’s successfully gotten state laws changed (WABikes?).

      2. Kevin Carrabine

        It is true that the Ballard Chamber of Commerce made a last minute, pressured decision in 2003 to sign on to the initial litigation, and the followup suits.

        What is also true is that the Chamber very recently reached out to long term trail supporters and advocates and invited them to present their point of view regarding the alternatives. Whether or not this leads to a change in their actions vis-a-vis further litigation remains to be seen.

        Continued assertions to owners of Chamber businesses that you patronize, about ‘your’ preferred alternative, can not help but influence Chamber members and the Board to rethink their prior actions. We all have a voice, and we should use it to let Chamber businesses know that continued litigation is not good for business.

  6. Ben L

    “Leo Tolstoy’s Love and Peace”

    Pretty sweet use of wordpress autocorrect there Tom!

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Ha! Oops! That was a funny brain fart :-)

    2. Ha, Leo Tolstoy’s Love and Peace, in which Napoleon’s invasion of Russia is repelled by a bunch of really determined hippies that don’t understand who they’re fighting for or what decade it is…

      … which I suppose devolves into a War of the End of the World scenario…

  7. Law Abider

    As Kirk mentioned above, this is a well known problem with having to perform an EIS. Because it’s an “Environmental Impact Statement”, if any environmental issues come up that would preclude the preferred alternate, there needs to be a set number of other alternates that are evaluated simultaneously.

    With some EISs, such as this, the alternates are throwaways to satisfy the requirements. The alternates will NEVER even get a second look past the EIS process. I wonder if all the knee-jerk reactions generated by the alternates was an cleverly anticipated smokescreen by the three obstructionists or just a lucky break for them.

  8. Peri Hartman

    What is the real reason of the “obstructionists”? If the EIS shows that there’s actually an improvement to traffic along the corridor with the redo, their argument is weak. If they are afraid of bicycles crossing driveways, how is it worse than bicycles on the actual street? Maybe, just maybe, could it be loss of free parking?

  9. […] The South Shilshole alternative is the clear winner in the Missing Link alternative analysis. (SDOT) […]

  10. Mary Ann Mundy

    I definitely favor the Shilshole South route. Straight forward, less impact on freight.

  11. […] businesses, and money spent studying the Missing Link over the last two decades is exhausting: 2,677 pages (online at least) have been created studying the completion of this part of the […]

  12. […] avoid the worst part of the Missing Link we took just two bad blocks of NW 54th St/NW Market St (safety in numbers!) and then climbed up to […]

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