The University of Washington has released a proposal for a major upgrade to the section of the Burke-Gilman trail that runs through its campus, for which it is seeking federal funding through the TIGER program. Of all the parts of the current Burke-Gilman trail, this is possibly the most important, as it provides access to the UW — a massive source of demand — as well as the primary connection between downtown Seattle and northeast Seattle, and the suburbs to the northeast. It’s tremendously busy, and it shows its age in some ways, being basically the same trail today was it was when the Burke first opened in 1978, despite decades of growth in population and ridership.
By way of explanation, the university has released a one-pager and a slick conceptual design booklet that’s full of statistics, maps and beautiful renderings, along with quite a bit of jargon and flowery prose (“eddies of open space” being perhaps my favorite marriage of the two). The first third of the booklet is background; the meat of the design begins at PDF page 36. Tom over at Seattle Bike Blog has gone into detail on how the trail will look and work, with lots of visuals taken from that section, and I recommend reading his post. Briefly, there are three major components to the new design:
- The trail will be rebuilt with separate bike and pedestrian sections, separated by a ramped curb. At every place where the trail intersects a trail or overlook, a “mixing zone” will be created; this is an area where the demarcating curb will disappear, and pavement and striping pattern will signal to all users to expect crossing traffic. These two features should make the trail much less stressful for all users.
- Bike and pedestrian connections to the Burke will be rebuilt, reorganized, and made wheelchair-accessible where possible. Current connections to the Burke are mostly ad hoc, unmarked, of wildly varying quality, and, in many places, spaced very close together. The new design consolidates them down to a much smaller number, evenly-spaced and clearly-marked. These changes will improve matters both for cyclists passing by campus and accessing campus.
- At one of the road crossings — Brooklyn Ave — the crossing will be “tabled”; i.e. the road will be raised up to the level of the trail, which should calm traffic and improve safety.
Overall, the finished product looks to me like it would be a dramatic improvement over the status quo. Paving and wheelchair-accessibility work is always expensive, and these improvements don’t come cheap — the total price tag is $12 million — but it seems worth it. My only complaint is that this plan does not address the scary and substandard connection between the University Bridge and the Burke, although I suspect it is primarily an issue of jurisdiction and scope, and the city will be the agency responsible for improving that connection.
TIGER projects consider community support as part of their funding criteria. If you support this project, you should click here and fill out the form to endorse it. Unless some major objection to the design appears, STB will likely editorialize in favor of this project, so if you’re a regular rider of this segment, we’re interested in your opinions.