At the urging of Councilmember Dan Strauss and with Mayor Bruce Harrell’s support, SDOT is beginning early design work on a potential alternative for the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link in Ballard. Though the city has a design fully completed and ready for construction along Shilshole Ave NW, the construction permits are held up in court as opponents continue their decades-long campaign to stop the project. The latest delays spurred CM Strauss to ask SDOT to study an alternative he hopes can avoid further lawsuits and get a walking and biking connection built.
SDOT has not abandoned the Shilshole plan, but they are developing a Leary plan in addition to it. They hope to have the design up to the 30% mark by the end of 2023. They even have a very simple online feedback form you can complete that includes one open-ended prompt: “Tell us your feedback.”
Trail advocates are sort of in a position of limbo. The Shilshole plan is fully designed and was the preference of the vast majority of people during the drawn-out design and environmental review process. But Leary Way and Market both need big safety upgrades, and a protected bike route along there would be genuinely awesome. But it also feels like a different project than the trail. Then again, there’s funding to make improvements now, and we don’t know how long these court battles will last. But also, how do we know this project won’t also get sued into oblivion? If we’re basing that assumption on the word of the appellants, well, we’ve fallen for that trick before. So keeping both options open seems like a good strategy. ¿Por qué no los dos?
“We’re open to the Leary/Market study as long as it doesn’t add any delay to Shilshole,” Cascade Bicycle Club Executive Director Lee Lambert told Seattle Bike Blog.
Latest legal challenge
We reported earlier this year that the Shorelines Hearings Board decided against the city, though the full text of the decision was not yet complete so we did not know exactly why. The Board recently released its full decision (PDF), and it has nothing to do with the Shilshole trail’s design or safety or anything non-lawyers care about. It’s just more wrangling over technicalities, like whether the project is exempt from the State Environmental Policy Act and whether the appellant group has standing to make these legal challenges. Though the city remains just a small step away from having the permits they need to construct the Shilshole trail, the appellants have once again found a legal tactic to keep delaying those permits. The city and Cascade are planning to seek reconsideration, and the case could end up back in King County Superior Court eventually. But all this will likely take more than a year.
We’re launching a design and public engagement process to study what an alternative “Missing Link” connection using 17th Ave NW, Leary Ave NW, and NW Market St would look like and mean for community members and businesses. This early design will result in an initial concept only (30% Design) at this point, and will be refined with community input. We’ll share this work with the public and take feedback on how to best design this route.
We’re in the early stages for this potential route and expect to be able to share more details about this design this summer. We’re also beginning to collect community feedback and are contacting businesses and property owners near the route, presenting to community groups, conducting field research, and launching a community survey.
In the meantime, we encourage everyone to sign up for the project email list to get regular updates.
Councilmember Dan Strauss and Mayor Bruce Harrell requested that SDOT study this route as an option for connecting the Burke-Gilman Missing Link with an all ages and abilities bicycle facility through Ballard along NW Market St, Leary Ave NW, and 17th Ave NW. More details about this request can be found here and here.
The Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link is the long-planned multi-use trail safety improvements along 1.4 miles of Salmon Bay east of the Ballard Locks connecting the two existing sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard.
SDOT has a 100% design for a proposed route along Shilshole Ave NW, however construction along this route has been paused due to ongoing litigation for over 25 years. This route remains an option if these legal challenges are resolved. Please see this website for more information on the Shilshole alignment.
Moving forward with designs for the Market/Leary/17th route will help us understand how this project will improve connectivity in the bike network, as well as potential impacts.