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CM O’Brien urges the Mayor, SDOT to make a choice on the Missing Link

Jessica Dickinson tells her story of breaking her arm in two places in a 2014 crash on the Missing Link. She still experiences pain.
Jessica Dickinson tells her story of breaking her arm in two places in a 2014 crash on the Missing Link. She still experiences pain.

Councilmember Mike O’Brien joined neighbors and representatives from nearby businesses Friday to urge SDOT and Mayor Ed Murray to make a decision about their preferred option for the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link in Ballard.

“I believe if the city prioritized this as they should … we could have have it begin construction by fall and have it open by the time the weather turns nice in 2018,” O’Brien said.

SDOT’s Environmental Manager Mark Mazzola said the city is hoping to have a preferred alternative “within the next several weeks” and a final environmental study out in May. Here’s the full statement sent via email:

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SDOT’s goal is to decide upon a preferred alternative within the next several weeks.  This will allow SDOT to complete our Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) in May. Since the end of the public comment period we have been developing responses to the approximately 4,100 public comments we received and conducting additional field studies and analysis prompted by those comments. Depending on the complexity of the alignment ultimately chosen, such as for intersection crossings and utility relocations, design can take up to a year before construction begins.

The comment period ended five months ago on a draft environmental impact statement studying all the possible options and impacts for the trail connection. Support is overwhelmingly in favor the Shilshole South option, which follows the rail line like the rest of the trail. The longer the city delays making a choice and finishing design work, the more people will continue getting injured or worse.

At the press event Friday, Jessica Dickinson joined Councilmember O’Brien to tell her story of crashing on the train tracks in the middle of the Missing Link back in August 2014. Her wrist was badly broken, resulting in multiple surgeries.

“I’ve dealt with chronic pain for two years,” she said. The ongoing care has cost her thousands of dollars out of her own pocket.

But beyond that, the experience was traumatic. She has only bikes in the area once since the crash.

“I had to walk my bike across the tracks,” she said.

Jessica is just one of the nearly two dozen people who go to the hospital every year due to crashes where the trail remains incomplete decades after planning started. Many more people than that are injured, but are not counted because they were not hauled away in an ambulance.

The sooner the city makes a decision, the sooner we can stop the carnage.

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5 responses to “CM O’Brien urges the Mayor, SDOT to make a choice on the Missing Link”

  1. LAX2SEA

    Questions & comments from a total n00b who was there. I know nothing and just moved here, so please feel free to tell me where to go ;) I have ridden on the aforementioned “Link” hundreds of times though.

    1. Great turnout, I thought there would be 30 people there but it was more like 300. I had also thought there were 4 competing plans but Team Shilshole South was easily 90% of the crowd. Even the creepy rich guys seated by the wall wearing gold chains and yellow wristbands liked that plan. Everyone seemed impressed by that.

    2. Since the dangerous train track-y part under the bridge is nowhere near the “we have to decide where to put it” part why not make that part safe during the 17+ years y’all have been arguing? I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but consider the Missing Link a nice problem to have if that’s what you’re worried about.

    3. I love me a good farmer’s market but wow, the sniveling self-interest of the farmer’s market people was breathtaking. So your market that benefits a few hundred people for a few hours a week takes precedence over something that benefits thousands of people 24/7? Made me sympathize with the Ballard Oil guy. And wait… cyclists are threatening your beloved market? Straight out of Portlandia.

    Come to Fremont on a Sunday and you’ll see that families don’t need a place to park to go to the market. Because they can ride their bikes! Just give them a safe way to do it.

    Props to those of you I heard snickering and guffawing. Unbelievable.

    1. 1. The Burke-Gilman mostly follows the course of a former railroad. One of the places it deviates a bit from that is near the office park in Fremont, where it stays a little closer to the canal (I think the railroad route is partly covered by buildings now). My understanding (this was before I moved here) is that it was planned and built along with the office park, and that a lot of cyclists were upset that it didn’t follow the original route more closely. By now people have mostly forgotten (or been replaced by people like me that weren’t there) and this part of the trail is well loved — it has its problems, but not terrible ones. This railroad actually crossed the Ship Canal on a long-demolished bridge somewhere between Fremont and Ballard and continued to Interbay. The railroad through Shilshole is actually a different one altogether, but as in Fremont, there seems to be a really strong feeling among cyclists that the route of the railroad is the original and best route for the trail, and that anything else is a betrayal. This is apart from any practical problems with the other alternatives…

      2. That part was improved significantly a couple years ago. For many years there was no path west of 11th, just sharrows on the road (which was two-way — the westbound vehicle lane was removed to stripe the interim path). Implementing the final BGT plan in this section would close the railroad, which has actually been operational (with very low traffic and very low speed) for most of that time, and heavily involved in obstructing the trail, including that segment. The city building the interim path in street ROW west of 11th changed the nature of that fight — they’d really like to get rid of the interim path that’s already there, which is harder than just stopping a plan.

      3. The Farmers’ Market people are mostly fighting against the Ballard Ave. alignment that nobody really wants, right? FWIW a lot of people drive to the Fremont Sunday Market. Some park in the pay lots nearby, though many balk at the prices and park up on the side streets. The Ballard market really does use the street from wall to wall… if the BGT were routed up Ballard Ave something would have to give while it was going on. The Fremont market on 34th is similar, and it closes the protected bike lane on 34th while it’s going on.

  2. R

    Was this the event at the Ballard Elks that I couldn’t attend because I didn’t RSVP a week ago?

  3. Considering the disdain Ed Murray has shown for the bicycling community since he took office, I’m not holding my breath that he will listen to the 90+% of cyclists who want the Shilshole South option. If he makes a decision at all before Election Day, it’ll probably be a crap compromise that he’ll coat with a thin varnish of feel-good BS (like when he killed bike share).

  4. Matthew Snyder

    Which of the alternatives doesn’t have organized opposition?
    – The Ballard Ave option is actively opposed by the Farmers Market
    – The Shilshole South option is opposed by the industrial group we all know and love
    – The Leary option is opposed by Murray’s office (and a cycletrack is not a trail)

    Prediction: it’s going to be Shilshole North, announced in a late Friday press release. Not because it has the most support, but because it has the least organized opposition.

    Anyone want to get a “Save Shilshole North!” campaign going real quick?

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