Last Friday, we wrote about a proposal by the University of Washington for a major upgrade to the section of the Burke-Gilman trail that traverses the UW campus. Community support is a component in considering TIGER applications, so the STB Board would like to throw our support behind this application, and urge readers who care about safe and effective pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Seattle to do the same, by filling out the form at this page.

There are multiple reasons for our support:

  • The current trail is inadequate, obsolete and under-designed for its current level of traffic. Trail users are particularly poorly served by the multiplicity of (largely non-wheelchair-accessible) connection points and unsafe road crossings. The UW proposal solves those problems.
  • These problems will only increase with the opening of University Link in 2016, as the light rail station to the southeast of the university, and anticipated property development to the west, increase demand on this regional active-transportation highway.
  • This TIGER funding cycle represents the best (and likely the only) way to fund these improvements in time for the 2016 opening of University Link. Before the station opening is the smart time to perform this unavoidably-disruptive construction work.
  • This section of the Burke-Gilman trail is of regional importance, connecting all of northeast Seattle and the northeastern suburbs to the five-year interim northern terminus of Link Light Rail, the region’s transit backbone, and to the UW and downtown Seattle, two of our regions’s biggest travel demand centers.

We strongly urge the United States Department of Transportation to consider and approve the University of Washington’s Burke-Gilman connector proposal, and for our state and federal elected officials to support and advance it however they may.

STB’s Editorial Board currently consists of Martin H. Duke, Bruce Nourish, and Sherwin Lee.

10 Replies to “Support the Burke-Gilman TIGER Application”

  1. This doesn’t affect my general support for the work UW plans for the BGT, but I think the Burke’s situation is emblematic of the problems we have with transportation cycling infrastructure in Seattle.

    Because SDOT has provided very little quality cycling infrastructure anywhere in Seattle, our trails are owned and operated by a patchwork group of organizations. Some, like UW, recognize the transportation importance of their facilities and plan lighting and intersection improvements. Others, like the parks department, care more about art installations than nighttime usability and connectivity. Private owners and adjacent businesses are a mixed bag. Many owners permit users to block the trail for days at a time (the UW permitted that ridiculous movie crew to block the trail a couple years ago; the parks department permits Hempfest in Myrtle Edwards without requiring a path through).

    All this should be standard — lighting, quality intersections, and some guarantee that people aren’t issued permits to block trails without mitigation. The city needs transportation-focused standards for these trails that apply regardless of ownership surrounding lighting, intersections, and trail closures.

    1. Myrtle Edwards is a public park first, a bike trail second.
      This is one reason why that although I support bike trails, and a fan of riding bikes to work, I also take things with a grain of salt. There are some ‘bicycle road warriors’ that seem to think everything is owed them.

      There have been plenty of times I have walked on numerous trails, along the side of the trail, yet bicycle riders seem to feel that they have to pass me as close to me as possible, eventhough the trail is wide open, and no other traffic.

      Sorry if I seem like I have a chip on my shoulder. But this morning, walking just a short stretch on the trail near Gasworks park, I was buzzed 3 times. Which I find very rude. The trail is plenty wide enough.

      1. I’m sorry that some cyclists are not polite. Knowing how uncomfortable it is to be passed too close by fast vehicles I personally keep a reasonable speed when passing, give as much space as possible, and announce passes in most situations. Many people go way too fast on certain parts of the Burke that are essentially sidewalks, on shared and narrow sections of the Terminal 91 path, and on the bridge sidewalks of the Fremont and Montlake Bridges. What has this at all to do with my original point?

        Myrtle Edwards sure is a public park. It also happens to have a bike path that goes through it that’s important for transportation. Our city has a department of transportation, which has declined to provide its own route in this corridor, instead referring to the trail as part of the city’s cycling network through the park in public information and planning documents. When we define our cycling network it’s the job of the transportation department to make sure the network is basically intact day and night, and regardless of events.

    2. Melrose Avenue is closed on the 4th of July, and University Way is closed for the streetfair. Why is it OK to close these for events but not OK to close the Burke-Gilman or Myrtle Edwards trails?

      1. Spoken like someone that’s doesn’t actually use a bike to get around.

        The Ave and Melrose (like Ballard Ave, closed for the Ballard farmer’s market, the streets typically closed for Fremont’s Sunday market, and others) are local streets whose primary purpose is local access. General traffic goes through unimpeded in the same places it usually does. The stretch of Lake Washington Boulevard used for Bicycle Sundays is similarly not a very important part of the road network, and there’s very little impact when it’s closed. The road network is certainly intact — are people unable to drive where they’re going on these days, or forced to drive offroad or detour far out of their way?

        The path through Myrtle Edwards is a significant route for cyclists going to and from downtown (and with the Thomas Street bridge up, LQA). If it’s closed, the nearby alternatives are… Elliot? Going over or around Queen Anne? The Burke-Gilman Trail is obviously one of the most popular bike routes in Seattle, and in many areas lacks parallel alternatives suitable to many of its users. If the trail has to be closed for something important (the bar has to be higher than, say, Hempfest, shooting a movie, or a “food truck rodeo”, none of which should require any paths to be closed, and none of which would warrant shutting down a road with major through traffic), and suitable alternates are available, I have no problem with that; that’s what happens around construction, and most of the construction reroutes I’ve seen have been pretty good — they’ve certainly kept the network intact.

        It’s not just about events. One thing the Burke and the trail in Myrtle Edwards have in common is really bad nighttime lighting conditions. It isn’t just that they’re dark; it’s that the trail is unlit while huge amounts of light flood in from nearby roads, harbors, businesses, etc. This isn’t a huge project (I bet a hundred standard street lights or even lower powered lights could solve a significant part of the problem for both trails) but it basically requires a transportation focus: an understanding of the importance of these routes to the cycling network and a commitment to keeping the network intact at night.

  2. Multiple TIGER grant applications will be coming out of the Seattle area. Do you have a list of them? If not, how can you decide to endorse this particular project without knowing what the other choices are?

  3. I generally support the idea of fixing the trail, and I signed on to endorse the project at a Cascade Bike Club event. As a daily rider and sometime runner on that stretch of trail, the plan itself definitely seemed overwrought but I’ll take it. Like you mentioned in the earlier post, lots of fancy prose and it seemed like the designers were probably getting paid by the page, based on how they broke down what to a rider feels like one segment of trail (known as “the segment where I have to go slow because there’s lots of traffic”) into five “reaches”. Mostly what I would like to see there is a smoother trail surface. The tree roots busting up through the pavement in that section of trail result in a very bumpy ride and reduce my lunch to smithereens if I carry it in my handlebar bag. The section of the trail north of the university has taken the temporary measure of shaving down the bumps, which has helped a lot.

    1. I’ve observed several places on the Burke where bumps in the trail cut the effective trail width in half, as a result of people going around the bumps in search of smoother pavement. When, at the same time, you are passing a jogger and there’s also a bike coming through the other way, things can get a bit close. I go through one particularly bad example of this about a couple hundred feet north of Snohomish Lane.

      As far as I can see, this reconstruction should fix these issues. My only concerns are:
      1) How will I get to work during the construction?
      2) What’s going to happen to all the trees surrounding the trail? We need these trees for shade, but if the total trail width is going to increase, the extra width is going to have to come from somewhere.

  4. I just signed up and sent it on to officers at UW grad student and postdoc organizations as I hope they will give a group endorsement.

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