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October 8, 2013 at 2:42 PM

UPDATE: Ed Murray: ‘Missing Link’ fix for Burke-Gilman trail is ‘potentially dangerous’

UPDATE, 2:35 p.m., Tuesday:

Ed Murray has issued a long “clarification,” calling completion of the Missing Link “vital.” He again said he was concerned about the safety of the city’s preferred Shilshole route, but also doesn’t sound enthusiastic about the Ballard business’ suggestion of a Leary-Market alternative. Here’s the statement:

“Yesterday I made some comments to the Seattle Times expressing concerns about safety issues related to the fact that bikes and trucks will have to share a narrow roadway in Ballard under the cycling community’s preferred option for completing the trail. I want to clarify those remarks, because reading them over I realize that my tone came off as overly skeptical regarding that option.

“The Burke-Gilman is a treasured part of our regional trail system in Seattle and it is vital that we complete this ‘missing link.’ However, we must make sure the proposed route is the safest option for all users. The current proposal does place a multi-use trail through an industrial area, which raises some real safety concerns for users. I do not oppose the proposed route, but I think the Environmental Impact Statement process that is currently underway will provide an important ‘second look’ to make sure we make the best choice.

“SDOT is now working on an EIS to survey the route between the Ballard Fred Meyer and the Locks along Shilshole. The alternative route proposed by some local business owners along Leary Ave NE onto Market St via a cycle track is not ideal either as it would not provide as direct a connection and is not a separate trail. My own preference is that we implement an engineered solution to the safety problem, one that uses the planned public right-of-way in Ballard but which channels the bike traffic and protects the entry points into the Lake Union industrial businesses. I believe the outcome of the current EIS will help us to reach a positive outcome that completes the trail in a timely way while protecting the safety of cyclists and the viability of local businesses.”


ORIGINAL POST: Mayoral hopeful Ed Murray is skeptical about the city’s preferred route to finish the long-delayed “Missing Link” section of the Burke-Gilman trail, saying that putting the trail through a dense industrial corridor on the Ballard waterfront may be unsafe. 

“I took a look at it, and it seems potentially dangerous,” Murray told me last week. “I think it needs a second look.”

The "Missing Link" of the Burke-Gilman trail.

The “Missing Link” of the Burke-Gilman trail.

His timing is good: The Seattle Department of Transportation is already working on an Environmental Impact Statement of the route, which would connect the Burke-Gilman between the Ballard Fred Meyer and the Locks. The city was forced to do the EIS because a group of maritime and industrial businesses have objected to the city’s preferred route, on Shilshole Avenue Northwest straight through the Ballard industrial core, since it was picked by the City Council 2003. 

The businesses hope the EIS – which must include a safety assessment of the route – will point toward their preferred alternative, a cycle-track on Leary Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street. I wrote a column about that idea in May, arguing that it was a win-win-win: Ballard gets a state-of-the-art bike facility, an inherently unsafe route is more quickly fixed and the beleaguered industrial sector feels like they’re not being pushed out of the city.

The status quo on Shilshole Ave. NW. STEVE RINGMAN / SEATTLE TIMES

The status quo on Shilshole Ave. NW. STEVE RINGMAN / SEATTLE TIMES

Josh Brower, the attorney for the Ballard businesses, makes that another strong point in his comments to SDOT. He notes that the city’s preferred route is more expensive, would cross a driveway every 144 feet, and the bike path design would limit drivers’ ability to see oncoming bikes. Read it for yourself; he makes a good case.

Instead of completing the Missing Link with an unsafe, outdated, and dangerous sidepath along a Major Truck Street, SDOT should complete the Trail with a world-class cycle track on Leary Avenue and NW Market Street. SDOT is embracing cycle tracks in every other area of the city, and it is unclear why Ballard is an exception. At a minimum, SDOT should consider this alternative in its preparation of the EIS.

Murray is an advocate for bike infrastructure. Contrary to other news reports, he said doesn’t oppose another planned cycle-track, on Westlake Avenue. He waxed on about biking on cycle-tracks in Europe. But he knows that he’s going to get roasted for raising concerns about the Shilshole route. “There goes my bike support,” he said.

Comments | Topics: Burke-Gilman trail, ed murray


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