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Trail Alert: Burke-Gilman Trail will be detoured near Ballard Fred Meyer

Map of the construction site with timelines for closures. The detour is listed as May 2020 to August 2022The Ship Canal Water Quality project, the $500+ million effort by Seattle Public Utilities and the King County Wastewater Treatment Division to prevent sewage from spilling into Puget Sound during heavy rains, will close the section of the Burke-Gilman Trail next to the Ballard Fred Meyer parking lot starting in early June.

The detour will send users across the closed NW 45th Street to a temporary trail on the north side of the street. The detour will be in place until August 2022.

SPU was responsible for a long closure and detour of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Fremont back in 2018, and the detour was largely very well done with full separation and gentle transitions the whole way. If this detour is as good as the Fremont one, it should be no trouble. The trickiest part will likely be the railroad track crossing at 11th Ave NW. Those tracks have long been a major hazard to people biking.

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The project will create a massive underground stormwater storage tank to capture water from Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford so that it does not overwhelm the capacity of the sewer system. When that happens, a “combined sewer overflow” occurs, meaning raw sewage and rainwater are mixed together and flow untreated into Puget Sound. Eww. Instead, the tanks will fill with water during a heavy rain, then will be emptied more slowly into the West Point Treatment Plant in Discovery Park at a rate the system can handle. The project won’t be fully operational until 2025.

This is why projects like Seattle’s Street Edge Alternative street in Broadview make so much sense. By having stromwater run into rain gardens along the street rather than sewers, the water does not overwhelm the sewer system helping to keep waterways clean and saving SPU and King County from needing to build massive and expensive underground storage tanks. Plus, as SDOT Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang pointed out in a recent tweet, the street is also safer now thanks to the traffic calming from the rain gardens:

So we get a safer and greener street, a cleaner Puget Sound and save money on sewer infrastructure. That’s a lot of wins in a single project. Sure, it’s not cheap to build streets like this. But it’s also not cheap to build stormwater tunnels. At least the street project has other benefits, too.

By the way, this is also a big benefit of installing rain barrels on your house in Seattle. It’s partly about saving water, sure, but it’s mostly about capturing water during heavy rains so it doesn’t flow into sewers. SPU has a great program where you can buy a discounted rain barrel made from old pickle and olive barrels. They will deliver it to your house (in Seattle) with all the fixtures and everything already installed. It’s very cool.

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6 responses to “Trail Alert: Burke-Gilman Trail will be detoured near Ballard Fred Meyer”

  1. Kevin in Ballard

    Tom – any idea what this is going to look like (i.e., crossings of NW 45th at 9th NW and crossings of 11th NW and NW 45th to return to the cycle track?). The devil is always in the details…

    1. Jessica Winter-Stoltzman

      It looks to me essentially similar to what is already there. You already have to cross 45th and 11th – currently you cross those both simultaneously (diagonally) at the stop sign at 45th and 11th. This would just move that diagonal crossing one block east, as far as I can tell. From my personal experience living right near here and biking to Fred Meyer regularly, 9th is somewhat less busy with cars than 11th (both of these streets are essentially just access points to the Fred Meyer parking lot), so if anything, this should be better than the current situation.

      1. AW

        This post mentions that the detour is on the north side of 45th and I am guessing that it means the westbound car lane. If this is the case then there will be two additional railroad track crossings, one at 9th and one at 11th. I think this is going to be quite difficult for bicycle riders especially considering that the transition from trail to detour will need to go right through where car traffic is going through 9th and 11th. There is a lot of room to make a mess of this if the detour is designed by someone who doesn’t understand the issues related to bicycle riders.

      2. jay

        SPU says; “In 2021, full closure of NW 45th St between 9th and 11th Ave NW for a period of 15 months. This will include detours for vehicular traffic
        and pedestrians”
        Maybe non-motorized traffic will be on North sidewalk? That might not be so bad, as that might encourage riders to make relatively perpendicular crossings of the railroad tracks, while if people were riding in the west bound general purpose lane there may be temptation for less experienced riders to make dangerously low angle crossings.

        On the other hand, if 45th is fully closed for 15 months it puts into question the necessity of the fake railway east of their locomotive storage location, so maybe the tracks could be removed or paved over. Better yet would be for them to store their toy train at Salmon Bay and take out all the track west of there.
        I think they really missed an opportunity when the transfer station was rebuilt, all that garbage gets trucked to some terminal (I don’t know where) where it is put on trains, if the fake railroad had been extended up 34th to the transfer station, I could not longer call it fake. Of course the cyclists would scream bloody murder about losing the trail between I guess about NW 40th and maybe Phinney Ave. N. but I’m sure they are the only ones who would mind.

  2. jay

    Oops, make that “track South and East of Salmon Bay”

  3. Andy B

    I’ve already been cutting up to 46th at 14th to avoid waiting at the crosswalk at Shilshole – guess I’ll just start doing that at 9th rather than adding more track crossings.

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