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Missing Link design nearly complete, construction to begin this winter (unless the court intervenes)

Barring a court order, construction on the Ballard Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail is scheduled to begin this winter. So while an appeal is still working its way through the courts, the city is moving forward with a construction plan that would have the trail fully open by the end of 2020. That’s 18 years after the Seattle City Council first voted to build this segment.

The work has beed divided into two phases that will overlap. The first section, from the Locks to 24th and Market, is scheduled to begin construction in just a few months. If all goes as planned, it would be open in about a year. Construction on the second phase, from Market St. to Fred Meyer, is set to begin in the summer and would open in autumn of 2020.

The biggest sticking point of the whole route is the industrial driveway crossings along Shilshole. The latest design includes green paint and flashing LED signs warning trail users about trucks.

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Many crosswalks have been significantly improved, as well. And there is now a biking and walking path to the 20th Ave NW Street End Park on Salmon Bay, which I did not even know existed. So that’s very cool. Here are the latest designs moving from east to west:

An appeal is still in process in King County Superior Court, where the appellants have a pretty tough case to make. They would need to convince the court that the Environmental Impact Statement and/or the Seattle Hearing Examiner process that ruled in the city’s favor were in some way legally inadequate. For example, the court recently denied an appellant argument that the Hearing Examiner was biased because he was promoted shortly after deciding in the city’s favor (the judge said that if an examiner pursuing career advancement were considered bias, that would “taint virtually all decision making by that body.”). Let’s hope the rest of the appellants’ arguments are similarly ineffective.

Because after this much delay, it would not be wise to assume this project will be completed until crews are pouring the cement. This is the closest the trail has ever been to construction, but appellants are still fighting hard.

Here’s the latest project update from SDOT:

Design of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link is nearly complete! The final design reflects ideas that we heard from key stakeholders, including an 11-member Design Advisory Committee (DAC), as well as community members from the Ballard area to design and refine the Missing Link and complete a multimodal corridor that supports all users.

We expect construction of the Missing Link will be split into two phases (see the map and construction timeline below).

  • Phase 1, including the portions of the corridor on NW 54th St and NW Market St, is expected to begin construction in early 2019.
  • The project team is continuing to work with property and business owners to further refine the design for Phase 2, which includes the portion of the corridor on Shilshole Ave NW and NW 45th St. Design for Phase 2 is expected to be complete by 2019, with construction expected to begin in mid-2019.

You can view the latest Missing Link design plans on the project website.

If you were not able to attend our outreach events, you can view event summaries and the complete outreach summary in our project library.

What is the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link project?
The Burke-Gilman Trail is a regional, mixed-use facility that runs from Golden Gardens Park in Seattle to the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell. The trail is complete except for a 1.4-mile segment through the Ballard neighborhood, known as the “Missing Link.”

The scope of the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link project has evolved from a multi-use trail to a full multi-modal corridor that will accommodate all users for generations to come. Completing the Missing Link will create a safe, direct, and defined multi-use trail for persons of all abilities. It will also improve predictability for motorized and non-motorized users along the alignment and maintain truck and freight access to the industrial and water-dependent businesses within the Ballard Interbay Northend Manufacturing and Industrial Center (BINMIC).

Through extensive community engagement during design, we’ve learned more about the corridor improvements that stakeholders would like to see. In addition to the trail, additional improvements include new street paving along Market St, new traffic signals on Shilshole, improved pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks, a new access road, and new stormwater infrastructure.

The Missing Link has been included in the City’s comprehensive plan since the early 1990s, and is identified as one of the City of Seattle’s top-rated trail priorities in the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan.

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19 responses to “Missing Link design nearly complete, construction to begin this winter (unless the court intervenes)”

  1. Greg

    Where does funding for this come from?

  2. biliruben

    Holy glowing Gengar. That’s a lot of green paint and LEDs. Has anyone counted how many trucks, exactly, use these driveways daily? I can only guess that on average, it’s single digits.

    1. Tim Olstad

      Do your home work, hundreds of trucks pass in and out of those drive ways every day! BIKES AND TRUCKS DO NOT MIX!

      1. biliruben

        Easy there, tiger. No need to yell at me. Sounds like you have done your homework. I’m surprised. I used to ride there a lot. Hardly ever saw any. Much less what amounts to steady stream of hundreds. Got a link? I promise to give you a check plus for your homework.

      2. Dave

        The truth is obviously somewhere in between few and hundreds. The concrete place probably has dozens of trucks going in and out every day. The boat yard has far fewer, as they don’t want people driving through the yard. The city is probably trying to placate the businesses that have caused the 18 year delay and cost the city millions of dollars in studies and legal fees. It would be nice if this blog would call out those businesses (Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel for one).

        The Westlake Cycletrack is the same way. Lots of lots of green paint, but only a couple of crossings are actually used by vehicles on a regular basis. So the cyclists ignore the green zones and “slow” markings. It’s a poor design, but fits nicely with all the stop signs on the trail that are universally ignored too.

      3. Josh

        I bike this stretch every day. The truck traffic isn’t that bad on Shilshole Ave, even with all the concrete trucks building the new PCC by Trader Joe’s. Truck traffic is actually far worse on Leary Way. I think trucks and bikes totally mix on Shilshole, and in 2022 biking in Ballard will be safer and more common, and Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel will still be a healthy business.

      4. bill

        Dear Concern Troll Tim:

        Lakeside Industries has been running heavy trucks across the Burke for years without problems. In Satellite View I see a yard with parked cement trucks between 41st and 42nd on the west side of the Burke. Presumably those trucks are not abandoned; they must cross the Burke without killing cyclists and ruining their drivers’ careers. Also, in far away SODO, trucks and bikes get along fine on E Marginal and at the trail crossings at Atlantic, Terminal 18, and SW Spokane Pl.

        As a Seattle taxpayer I am incensed that the obstructive businesses have wasted so much city money.

      5. AW

        Tim, I am really not sorry that there will be more bikes along Shilshole once that road will be safe to ride on. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were more bikes than cars at that point.

        Once that section is done, I will be through there every single day. See you on the trail !!!

  3. Damon

    I see they’ve got a left-turn box at 24th and Market. That’s better than nothing, but getting from westbound B-G to northbound 24th is going to be an excruciating wait. Meaning a lot of people will avoid it, in various legal and illegal ways, and probably get hurt. Now that that intersection will have a major use case cutting diagonally across it, that light needs to change to have an all-pedestrians-and-bikes-go phase.

    Another thing I just realized about that intersection: if you’re a cyclist bombing south down 24th and you happen to make the light, you’re going to have every incentive to keep your speed up while transferring through that corner onto the B-G — in fact, it may be hard to slow down adequately while crossing Market, even if you’re trying to. Which if there are any pedestrians on that corner will be wildly unsafe.

    1. If you’re worried about bedlam at 24th/Market, go take a look at Stone/34th. It’s already got all the issues 24th/Market will have, with worse sight lines.

      Without going into the litany of stuff that happens there… it can be complicated and annoying. But the only part that’s routinely dangerous is the conflict between eastbound right-turning drivers from 34th and eastbound cyclists on the Burke (because of the extremely poor sight lines involved). Everyone else seems to get with the plot and slow down enough to get through safely.

      I don’t think there’s any reason to expect 24th/Market to be worse than Stone/34th. That’s a low bar, but we’ll all live.

  4. Craig Lundgren

    Why does it go along the busy NW Market Street when it can go along NW 54th Street?
    That’s a lot safer for all and a nicer walk or bike.

    1. Ballard Resident and property owner

      Politics that favors the Snowflake business in Ballard.

    2. AC

      The avoided section of NW 54th St would be a nightmare to upgrade (an unimproved road and other obstacles)–take a look on Street View. The real win is Shilshole.

  5. bill

    I will not be surprised if the Ballard Toy Railroad parks a train permanently on the crossing at Shilshole.

  6. Dodge

    I’m concerned about the steep grade westbound approaching the Market/24th intersection, and the cluster of people that will assumedly always be standing there waiting for the light. It’s pretty tough to both reef on the pedals to get up a hill, and also dodge pedestrians right at the top.

  7. will the intersection of 17th Avenue NW and Shilshole be signalized?

    1. Damon

      Yes, finally. That’s in the pics. There’s no space set aside for bikes to queue up to wait to cross 17th, though, so I expect that area to get pretty jammed during the evening commute.

      There’s also a new signal at Dock, labeled “for connection to the 17th Avenue Greenway”. That seems like a terrible idea, because it seems to imply that there *won’t* be a signal at 17th and Leary, which really needs one.

  8. Although there would have been obvious benefits to following the rail alignment all the way, and there are plenty of parts of the Market Street section that will be lousy, I think the big picture west of 24th is a 4-to-3 rechannelization and a positive change in allocation of street space. Making this change on a street used for end-consumer businesses and through-car traffic, instead of one with longstanding use by canal-specific industrial businesses, seems both more fair and more impactful from where I sit.

  9. […] Seattle Bike Blog writes that design is nearly complete for the Burke-Gilman Trail “missing link.” […]

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