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Port plans to fix pinch points and remove the narrow Interbay trail bridge

Photo of the start of the trail bridge marked with a path narrows sign.
This bridge’s days are numbered. Photo from the Port of Seattle.

The Port of Seattle plans to remove a couple problem spots for trail users traveling through the Terminal 91 rail yard in Interbay, work the Port Commissioners could approve during their September 12 meeting. The highlight improvement is removal of a rusting and skinny fenced-in bridge with a couple sharp turns and fairly steep approaches that don’t meet modern accessibility standards. The port will also widen a very skinny pinch point where the trail squeezes down to just a couple feet in width, too skinny for two-way travel.

Construction on the $1.525 million project is tentatively scheduled to begin during summer 2024 and be complete by the end of the year. The Port’s announcement notes that they will “communicate with stakeholders to develop a safe and efficient detour route.” The lessons learned during a short trail closure this year could be instructive.

The Terminal 91 Trail is often referred to as the Elliott Bay Trail or the Interbay Trail and is owned and operated by the Port of Seattle. It opened in 1987, offering people a much-needed alternative to biking on busy 15th Ave W. The Port initiated, designed and funded the trail.


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“Ten years ago, the Port would not have been involved in building a new bike path,” Pete Lagerwey, then the Bicycle Planning Coordinator at the Seattle Engineering Department, told the Seattle Times October 6, 1987 (login with your Seattle Public Library card to read). “This represents a new openness, a new vision.” The 1987 story noted these pinch points, writing, “Things get crowded in spots because the designers had to abide by train safety requirements, but the trail is passable at slow speeds.”

The trail bridge passes over a rarely used vehicle access point within the rail yard, and the plan is to keep the trail at ground level rather than replace the structure. They also plan to widen the skinny trail segment immediately south of the bridge.

Especially with the downtown waterfront bike connections scheduled for completion in late 2024, fixing these pinch points is more important than ever.

Map marking the trail improvement locations.

More details from the Port:

The Port’s Terminal 91 Trail is part of the Elliott Bay Trail, the main waterfront trail route along the Puget Sound. Open to those walking, rolling, or jogging, the trail provides a scenic commute helping to avoid busy intersections and city streets between Interbay and Downtown. It runs safely around some of Seattle’s most productive maritime industrial facilities, including the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91 which serves as homeport to the Alaska Fishing Fleet and Smith Cove Cruise Terminal. Trail users also encounter the towering grain elevators at the Port’s Pier 86.

Project Overview

This project will improve the Port’s segment of the trail by removing the steep and narrow overpass bridge and widening narrow pinch points. The existing pedestrian/bicycle bridge will be removed and replaced with a ground-level pathway. The project will widen the pinch point south of the current bridge and upgrade the path’s existing rail crossing. The project area includes about 750 feet of the trail.

These improvements will:

  1. Improve Public Safety – Upgrading these trail segments will allow for two-way traffic and reduce the risk of collisions and congestion.
  2. Improve Accessibility – This project helps address accessibility challenges at the pedestrian/bicycle bridge and the rail crossing.

Community Engagement

Stakeholders from the neighboring community, tenants, and trail user groups received briefings on this project.  As construction approaches the Port will communicate with stakeholders to develop a safe and efficient detour route. Construction is scheduled to begin after the summer peak season in 2024. Let us know if you have questions about the project.


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Comments

11 responses to “Port plans to fix pinch points and remove the narrow Interbay trail bridge”

  1. Gordon Padelford

    This is great news. We need our multiuse trails to be accessible for people walking, rolling, and riding a variety of bikes. This will be a huge help to anyone riding an adaptive cycle, cargo bike, or family bike.

  2. Elliot

    Do you have any current information about the ‘Magnolia Trail’ notated in the expanded Port map? The website for it was last updated in 2017.

  3. Toby Thaler

    Yes! Thanks for the good news.

    Next: The Ballard Bridge and approaches nightmare, including poor access and connections from 22nd and Dravus on.

  4. Brian

    Yay!

  5. Sven Tice

    Yes! While I’ve always been grateful for a quiet bike route between Elliot Bay and Ballard/Fremont, that weird twisty bridge and the narrow choke point next to it have always been hugely annoying.

  6. Donald R Stier

    I still have scars on the knuckles of my right hand from being driven into that chainlink on the way to Bumbershoot 1992. I’m grateful for this progress!

  7. Bruce N

    Great news! Wish this had been done when I lived in Ballard, but I’ll take it either way.

  8. Al Dimond

    This seems cool and practical. All that’s left is the ridiculous speed-limit signs and the quite bad (even by Seattle standards) nighttime visibility situation…

  9. Peter Breyfogle

    Wonderful. I road this on Saturday. The new pavement was much appreciated leading up to the pinch points. This is like running the gauntlet before coming out on the south end to a glorious view of the sound.

  10. Simon

    This will def make it easier. But where will we get our sense of adventure on the dedicated bike routes anymore? I’ve always enjoyed the elevated heart rate of not knowing if someone is barreling down the south-side ramp as I begin to entre the choke-point, with no visibility.

    1. Chris

      Ride the Burke-Gilman by UW in the fall; plenty of bike ninjas there wearing dark clothing and no lights! ;)

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