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Opinion on Missing Link route coalesces even further + send City Hall a Valentine to say: Build it!

You can send this adorable drawing to city leaders asking them to complete the Missing Link.
You can send this adorable drawing to city leaders asking them to complete the Missing Link.

“Roses are red, violets are blue. Complete the Missing Link, it’s long overdue.”

That’s the text on the adorable valentines Cascade Bicycle Club is urging supporters of the Burke-Gilman Trail to send to city leaders. It is much more friendly than my first attempt at a Missing Link valentine.*

Cascade staff (including my wonderful spouse who, full disclosure, works for Cascade) were also at the Ballard Farmers Market Sunday helping people send physical versions of the valentines urging the Mayor, SDOT and City Council leaders to choose the Shilshole South route and get to work building it.

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The timing is important because SDOT is presenting the options to the City Council noon Wednesday, and as we reported in January the choice of an official preferred alternative is imminent.

“Let’s finish this and move on. We have other things to finish,” said City Council Transportation Committee Chair Mike O’Brien to a room full of people gathered at the Elks Lodge in late January to support the trail. He wants to see ground break this year.

Jessica Dickinson, who crashed on the Missing Link and seriously injured her wrist, told her story of dealing with chronic pain and being afraid to bike in Ballard ever since.

“I wonder who will be next,” Dickinson said after telling her story. And she is right to wonder. Nearly two people are hospitalized by Missing Link crashes every month that the trail remains unfinished. Many more are injured, just not badly enough to be hauled away in an ambulance. The status quo is beyond unacceptable.

A megastudy released last summer looked at four options for the trail, which we explored in detail previously. Two of those options meet the basic goals of the project, but one is by far the most popular: Shilshole South. More than 90 percent of the immense amount of public feedback received was in favor of the South route, which also happens to be the basic rail-adjacent alignment the city has been trying to build since the City Council approved the project in 2003.

Well, public opinion seems to have coalesced around the South option even further, and it extends well beyond the biking groups like Cascade that have been working for so long to get the project completed. The packed meeting at the Elks Lodge was organized by Mark Durall at the Olympic Athletic Club and included some major property owners as well as organizers of the Ballard Farmers Market.

For a public debate, this is about as close to unanimous as you’re ever going to get.

The crowd at a late January meeting of Shilshole South supporters
The crowd at a late January meeting of Shilshole South supporters


The options from the Draft EIS. I modified it to show a possible combination of the North and South options.
The options from the Draft EIS. I modified it to show a possible combination of the North and South options.

The only other option that deserves a seat at the table is the Shilshole North option. As we wrote in June, “It’s not awful, but it’s also not better than the south option.”  This is still true even if you improve the east end of the route by crossing the street and following the Shilshole South route along NW 45th Street (I modified the map above to show this concept). Access to downtown Ballard could be a bit better since nearly every intersection along Shilshole could use a safety redesign that the trail project could provide. And Market Street could definitely use safety improvements between the Locks and 24th Ave NW. But these benefits come at the cost of more street, driveway and loading dock crossings that could add conflict points and traffic signal waits. It is also a little longer, has an extra hill climb up to Market St and creates difficult pinch points at the Locks and at the busy Market/24th Ave NW intersection.

The option also opens the project to all new trail pushback since it would pass in front of many more businesses and follow a route the past couple decades of public debate have not explored in depth. And since the draft megastudy was released in June, the North option has not gathered many if any enthusiastic supporters.

But the kicker for me is that the North route would skip the section near the industrial Salmon Bay waterfront, which has the potential to be among the coolest parts of the whole Burke-Gilman Trail. The conflicts with industry driveways has been a sticking point in the debate, so maybe we’ve lost sight of how big an asset the trail could be for these companies. By bringing people closer to their unique businesses, the trail is a chance for them to tell their stories and become the icons of Ballard they could be.

Kevin Carrabine, who has been advocating for the Missing Link since 1999 as part of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail, made a great comparison recently between Ballard and Vancouver’s Granville Island. A major tourist destination and industrial community, Granville Island is packed with visitors on foot and bike. Yet the tiny island is also home to a major concrete plant much like Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, a Ballard Missing Link opponent.

But Ocean Concrete has embraced their unique role as part of Granville, investing in iconic art and even hosting a popular community open house every year. As a result, they are a beloved part of the island and part of what makes Granville so cool. If the community works together, industry, tourism and the arts can all coexist and thrive. Here’s one of Ocean Concrete’s promo videos about it:

The Ballard Missing Link saga can have a happy ending. The people have been calling for it for a long time, and their voices are only getting louder. Mayor Murray, let’s end this debate and get to work.

* Cascade’s valentine is much more tactful than my proposed draft: “?Roses are red, violets are blue. OMG just build this damn trail so we can all move on to other big problems in our city and across our nation because when you have more than 90 percent of people agreeing about whether and where to put a biking and walking trail maybe we can just declare that debate over and get to work building it or have we created a Missing Link Industrial Complex in which endless public meetings and engineering studies and legal battles and hospital visits consume so much funding that the debate itself has become existentially required to persist in perpetuity until every last one of us has broken some kind of bone crashing on those fucking train tracks, because if the City Council’s original decision to build the trail were a baby that baby is about to enter high school and along with all the real babies born in 2003 would not have a safe way to bike to Ballard because this trail still is not complete and that is a fucking embarrassment because this is a biking and walking trail we’re talking about not a nuclear power plant or the Large Hadron Collider and if we can’t manage to finish this one-mile-and-change trail now then how am I possibly going to have hope that we as a city and as a people have any chance in hell of accomplishing any of the much larger tasks ahead of us because my generation is being handed the enormous task of somehow handing the next generation a planet they can still live on and the fact that we can’t even build this fucking trail is not helping my cynical sense of hopelessness that the inertia of the status quo is just too powerful a force to overcome no matter how hard we try, so sugar is sweet, blessings from the Hallmark Corporation, build the fucking trail, valentine. ?


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19 responses to “Opinion on Missing Link route coalesces even further + send City Hall a Valentine to say: Build it!”

  1. ronp

    Great post. I cannot understand the opposition to the extension, it never made any sense whatsoever. The industrial users can benefit and leverage the infrastructure just like the Canadians show in your post.

  2. jk

    Maybe we should do another study first

  3. Andres Salomon

    Please create your own line of Valentines Day cards.

    1. Ben P

      +1 that was awesome

  4. ryan

    It is all about parking

  5. Clark in Vancouver

    Love your valentine rant.
    Yeah, it’s frustrating especially when there’s so much support.

    What’s great about the mix of industrial, tourist attractions and artist studios being on Granville Island is that people get to balance tangible and intangible. Right next to the concrete plant is a big art school. Art students go past concrete trucks and welding shops which are nice counterpoints to art theory. Probably helps with their art practise. (Too bad the island isn’t currently nice to bike on but that’s another story.)
    Industrial plants and cycle routes can coexist quite nicely if done right. The missing link needs to be closed. I think all the industries along their should be approached and told that this is happening and they can’t stop it. That their only option is to be involved in the process so it works for them.

  6. Ballard Biker

    Rich white people in Ballard need their trail! Build it now!

    1. daves

      Yeah all people on bikes are rich. I suppose this is sarcasm, but equity is actually a really important argument for this — making it easier and safer for people to get around by modes other than cars, which are expensive. Bikes are the great equalizer, used by people all across the income spectrum

      1. anthony

        This about yanking away stuff from Ballard Terminal, let’s be clear here. Using cars as the analogy suffices for most but this is first and foremost about completing a minuscule section of the trail that definitely has impacts on local businesses. Are you going to support some other govt. project if it needs to usurp over someones personal space or infringe on their property easements if it doesn’t adhere to your political beliefs? I highly doubt it.

        Bikes are the great equalizer? Now I know that isn’t sarcasm but it’s also hard to swallow, they don’t equalize anything and especially when it comes to the income spectrum. I dare you to ride the 15 dollar huffy I bought last month for a donation and see if it even makes the spot under the bridge where all the crashes happen. (btw, the huffy didn’t survive)

      2. Nate Todd

        Hey Anthony, those rich bikers will spend money in Ballard, Seattle has decided, there is virtually no public support for not doing this, you have shown no harm to anybody if it is complete, so why are you opposed? The only argument I have heard against it is that truck drivers will have to watch out for bikes. Is that really a reason not to do this?

      3. Ballard Biker

        Couldn’t disagree more. The majority of people I see riding along Shilshole Ave are white and male. I suspect they are heading to a tech job in Freemont or South Lake Union. A bus might be the great equalizer, but not a bike. Riding a bike to work requires there to be somewhere to park the bike, somewhere to change, perhaps a locker room etc. That is not the case for lower income workers. If we want to talk about social equity, then it’s hard to justify spending this sort of money on the whitest neighborhood in Seattle, while South Seattle continues to get nothing.

      4. Kirk

        Anthony, you couldn’t be more wrong or ill-informed. The missing link isn’t about “yanking away stuff from Ballard Terminal.” The trail design fully accommodates BTR. The missing link does not “usurp over someones (sic) personal space or infringe on their property easements.” The missing link is fully owned by the citizens of the City of Seattle. It is also fully funded. It’s beyond time to build this and move on. Don’t worry, the asshole businesses will do just fine, just like they have for a century, just like they do along the entire length of the BGT.

  7. Kevin in Ballard

    Thanks Tom – nice post. Thanks for sharing the eye-opening video!

  8. Conrad

    The Valentine rant is pure gold- Faulkner has nothing on you. This has devolved into comedy for me. It’s been 14 years. Yeah let’s do another study. I’m sure all the businesses along the corridor will just pack up and leave if the missing link is built. The bikes are just too menacing when you are driving a dump truck.

  9. Law Abider

    “The conflicts with industry driveways has been a sticking point in the debate, so maybe we’ve lost sight of how big an asset the trail could be for these companies. By bringing people closer to their unique businesses, the trail is a chance for them to tell their stories and become the icons of Ballard they could be.”

    I think they’ve made it very clear that they don’t care about Ballard or their place in Ballard’s history. That ship sailed a decade ago; they will always be remembered for being obstructionists, even after they sell off their primo property to development within the next 5 years.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Like any institution, these companies are bigger than their leaders. They represent many jobs, a link to city history and are part of what makes Salmon Bay the fascinating place it is.

      I want them to succeed, and I know the trail can help them if they lean into it and make it work for them. Nobody forced them to waste their money on litigation. But worse, obstructing the trail hasn’t helped them because it makes enemies of their neighbors. Every person who crashes or has a loved one crash because the trail has been delayed has a very legitimate beef with these companies. That’s unfortunate, but it is their fault.

      But community is about having open arms. If they decide to work with the trail instead of fighting, then the community needs to be ready to praise that and celebrate them.

      1. Ballard Biker

        How many of those crashes have actually been on the Shilshole Ave part past 46th? That is the contested part of this. From what I have read there is no opposition to the part where people crash on Shilshole/45th where the tracks are under the bridge.

      2. Law Abider


        “If they decide to work with the trail instead of fighting, then the community needs to be ready to praise that and celebrate them.”

        That’s the problem. They are literally at the end of the road. Seattle is pretty much done with the EIS. Once that is accepted as complete (this year?) and the preferred alternate chosen (South Shilshole), the obstructionists have no legs left to stand on. They have depleted all their regulatory and legal options. If they all of a sudden do an about face, a minute to midnight, it would be not humble, but foolish, for the community to praise and celebrate such an empty gesture.

        I’m with you that we shouldn’t shame the industries or the jobs, but rather the leaders. It’s no different than Walmart, who employees millions of good people, who are just trying to make a living, but is run by greedy misers.

        @Biker: I don’t think they could complete the trail to past 15th Ave and just end it, without (1) doing some wacky, temporary re-channelization to ensure trail users can safely transition to existing Shilshole and (2) adding significant amount money to the construction cost for phasing, bidding, mobilization, etc. I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it (I’d love the trail to at least get to 17th, even if piecemeal), I’m just saying why they won’t.

        If they’re going to throw unanticipated money at the BGT, I’d rather they do things like turn the yield signs in Frelard 90 degrees, repave badly heaved sections or abandon and pave over the track crossing at 6th Ave NW (it’s not the track that gets me, it’s 90 degree turns when it’s icy).

      3. Kirk

        Yeah, seriously, F them. I hope they do go out of business. At this point I could care less. They’ve had more than ample opportunity to do the right thing and work with the city to design a safe route that works for their businesses. They’ve burnt their bridges.

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