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Parks Dept will fix Burke-Gilman bumps north of Matthews Beach + Transpo Plan looks to future trail rebuild

The signs are already up along the Burke-Gilman Trail alerting riders to the Parks Department’s plans to fix some bumps along the oldest stretch of the stories rail-trail north of Matthews Beach Park. Some of the pavement along this stretch is 46 years old. It may have helped launch the nation’s rails-to-trails movement, but it has long been showing its age. It was also built without the under-trail root barriers that more modern trails have, such as the section just north of the Seattle city limits. In addition, the sides have gradually eroded, making the width of the older sections a tiny bit skinnier.

Work on the first segment is set to begin March 25 and last up to two weeks. The final section is expected to be complete by July. And even more good news is that there appear to be easy detours for all of these work zones, which is not always the case for this trail. You can check out a map of all the planned detours via an online map from the Parks Department. Here’s the planned detour for the first section:

Map showing the trail detour on streets directly adjacent to the trail.

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Trail pavements lasts a lot longer than roadway pavement. A half century of service is pretty darn good, especially since the Parks Department has not always stayed on top of maintenance. It is great to see the department continuing its maintenance work from 2023.

However, maintenance will only extend the life of the trail to a point. Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed Seattle Transportation Plan (“STP”) includes a large capital project concept for a major upgrade of the trail from UW campus to Matthews Beach and UW campus to Fremont “to more comfortably and safely connect people walking, rolling, and biking on one of the region’s most popular trails with destinations along their route.” Inclusion in the “aspirational” capital projects list does not mean it is guaranteed to happen, but this is the first time I have seen the city officially designate it as a project. This project would most likely need significant state and/or federal grant funding. Below is the project description from the proposed STP:

Screenshot of the data sheet on the project showing the map and project description. Text-readable PDF linked in caption.
From Appendix A. Download the PDF for the project or the full Appendix A.

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4 responses to “Parks Dept will fix Burke-Gilman bumps north of Matthews Beach + Transpo Plan looks to future trail rebuild”

  1. Al Dimond

    Seems kinda weird to me that an upgrade project for something as simple as the Burke-Gilman is supposed to be so expensive that it would need state or federal grants. Once you’re out past U Village you’re beyond the area where there’s so much traffic that it needs to be widened and mode-separated, and you’re mostly in places without much distracting light where you only really need reflectors to provide adequate nighttime visibility (according to me, the only cyclist in Seattle that cares about nighttime visibility). For the part between the U District and Fremont, maybe you’d want to widen it, which would involve serious work (and a lot of arguing about parking spaces near Gas Works)… and there are some tough visibility spots that need lighting badly. But even there we could make serious improvements that matter without moving much earth or stoking much controversy. Then we could apply for grants to make transformative connections in places that don’t have them.

    1. Skylar

      Al, I think there are a few places between Matthews Beach and U-Village that could use improvements, in particular where the trail splits to accommodate a drainage ditch. Those segments aren’t safe for either pedestrians, or cyclists wanting to pass pedestrians, even when everyone is paying attention.

      Hopefully SPR can also widen the trail close to Lake Forest Park, because that’s both narrow and has bad sightlines. It feels even more jarring now that King County has rebuilt and widened their portion of the trail between LFP and the Sammamish River Trail.

      1. Al Dimond

        I think some improvements in that area would be good, but if a widening projects costs a lot of money because it moves a lot of earth, there are dozens of projects that should be ahead of it in priority, because they transform the bike network by making connections that are currently lacking, because they address more severe safety/comfort issues on existing bike routes, or because they make similar kinds of improvements in more pivotal locations. In places like this we should be finding what kinds of improvements we can make at lower cost so we can make those transformative investments in places that need it most.

  2. Dave

    I’m glad to see that this section is finally getting its long needed maintenance. Especially since it was originally scheduled for last year, but then just seemed to get ignored without any updates for quite some time.

    However, it appears that they may just do the same thing that they did with other sections near this area last year. That is, only repave selected areas of trail rather than the whole thing. There were a number of sections that they ignored last year when they made improvements that left me scratching my head. I’ve already seen that they’ve marked some sections with spray paint & arrows that appear to indicate the sections they’re going to fix. Something like this:

    [-> …………… <-]

    It'll be a bit disappointing if that's all they're doing — repairing selected sections. It'd be a lot better if they just repaved the whole section.

    Oh well, it's better than nothing.

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