The Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail won a huge legal decision today, with the Seattle Hearing Examiner deciding that SDOT’s environmental study and findings was adequate.
After completion of an enormous environmental impact study for the short stretch of missing trail, the legal path for trail opponents was already tough. This decision affirms that trail opponents have all but exhausted their legal arguments after 20 years of planning, debate and court battles.
While I am still waiting for the first shovel to hit the ground before celebrating, today is a big day and the result of an enormous amount of work and advocacy by a lot of people. It’s also a big day for the hundreds of people who have crashed and been significantly injured while trying to navigate the missing section.
The city’s current trail design is the result of a compromise design process that included businesses concerned about the trail, an attempt to avoid further legal action and finally build this section. Even though some businesses sued to stop the trail anyway, the city continued with the compromise design process, anyway. The result of that process, which addresses many of the freight movement worries voiced by opponents, is still the city’s plan.
The day we can finally stop arguing about the Missing Link may have just gotten a lot closer.
Councilmember Mike O’Brien, Chair of the Transportation Committee and longtime supporter of the trail, praised the decision in a statement and said he hopes to see Mayor Jenny Durkan and SDOT take “quick action” to begin construction:
“At last we can move forward to complete the missing link of the Burke-Gilman Trail. I’m excited to finally see this project through to fruition with an alignment that makes sense for pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks. I look forward to Mayor Durkan and SDOT taking quick action to complete the Burke-Gilman, providing a safer pedestrian and bicycle connector between Fremont and the Ballard Locks.”
Cascade Bicycle Club, which has been a major force behind the trail for many years, sent this press release:
Press release at a glance:
- Decision affirms the extensive, multiyear Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that received over 4,500 public comments, of which 77% of the respondents supported building the Burke-Gilman Trail on the City’s preferred route.
- With this decision the City of Seattle has the authority to move forward and complete the Missing Link.
- The vision to complete the trail in time for the 50th anniversary of the start of the Burke-Gilman Trail moves forward with strong Ballard community support.
- With designs for the Missing Link nearly complete, Cascade Bicycle Club and our Ballard partners call on Mayor Durkan and City Council to move forward on construction in early 2018 for completion of the Missing Link by 2019.
SEATTLE, Wash. January 31, 2018 – Cascade Bicycle Club releases its statement on today’s Seattle Hearing Examiner’s decision affirming the adequacy of the Missing Link Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
“Today’s decision affirms decades of hard work, dedication and compromise from an incredible variety of community members. Now more than ever we have a clear path forward to realize a 50-year vision of a completed Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Richard Smith, executive director of Cascade Bicycle Club.
Many, including Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail, Ballard landowners and businesses, the Ballard Farmers Market, as well as a host of Ballard industrial businesses have come together in a commitment to design and build a trail that is safe and predictable for everyone. Over the past 18 months, thousands of caring neighbors and businesses weighed in on the EIS and subsequent design process saying they want to ‘Complete the Missing Link.’ During the EIS comment process alone, 77 percent of the 4,500 respondents indicated a preference to locate along the preferred alternative, which runs along NW 45th St., Shilshole Ave. NW and NW Market St.
For almost two decades the process has been held up by a minority of businesses located on a small section of Shilshole Ave. NW. These businesses have sought to delay the process by using money to delay and then delay more. In 2009 and 2012, these few businesses sought the city to conduct an EIS process. After a series of lengthy and costly appeals, the city agreed to conduct a full EIS in 2013. Since the EIS’s publication in May 2017, a small number of parties appealed the EIS. Today’s decision ends this pattern of delay.
“My family has lived and worked in the fishing industry in Ballard since the 1920s, and I live on the Burke-Gilman Trail next to the railroad tracks,” said fisherman and Ballard business owner Jim Riggle. “The public safety improvements that will be made when the trail is completed will not just benefit trail users, they will benefit everyone, including those businesses, their drivers and their customers.”
This dangerous corridor has suffered from a lack of safety improvements for decades. The results are conditions that from 2014 to 2016 resulted in an average of two Seattle Fire Department emergency responses each month, and untold additional unreported crashes and injuries (Missing Link EIS, Transportation Discipline Report, p. 4-38).
“In August 2014 I crashed on the Ballard Terminal Railroad tracks along the Missing Link and broke my wrist, which has resulted in multiple costly surgeries,” said Jessica Dickinson. “I’ve dealt with chronic pain for two years, and the ongoing care has cost me thousands of dollars out of my own pocket. The experience was traumatic and I avoid the Missing Link at all costs. I can’t understand why others oppose making the Missing Link safer.”
The Missing Link project investments proposed by the City of Seattle now include design features that go beyond the trail’s construction. Consider the following:
- Benefits all users. At the January 19 City Council Transportation briefing, Interim SDOT Director, Goran Sparrman, who has been away from this project for several years, commented to City Council that he is impressed how the project now incorporates design elements that benefits all users, including walkers, trucks, bicycles, and cars. This includes a newly redesigned intersection for NW 54th St so that freight and business access is improved. It also includes the construction of at least three new traffic signals to reduce intersection delays and make safer crossings for all users.
- Improves conditions for old and new Ballard. Seattle and its neighborhoods are growing. With more people moving into Ballard, investments in safe transportation options are needed. In addition to serving one of the most-used active transportation corridors in the region, the project is now designed to improve driveways and intersections for trucks and cars.
This decision clears the way for implementing this long overdue project. Mayor Durkan has overwhelming support from Ballard businesses and neighbors for this investment in the Ballard neighborhood that will improve freight mobility, safety and access for people walking and biking.
Ballard neighbors and businesses want to move forward on completing the Missing Link. Cascade Bicycle Club and our many partners call on Mayor Durkan and City Council to move forward on construction of the Missing Link in early 2018 so that it can open in 2019.