Missing link in Burke-Gilman Trail stirs controversy in Ballard

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SEATTLE -- Tommy Gerome points to his elbow and shoulder when he talks about his road rash from a bad spill he took on his bicycle.

"It was wet and my wheel just got stuck in those railroad tracks. I didn't break any bones, I'm lucky the car behind me stopped. I've seen one person who broke their collar bone there though. I waited with them until the ambulance came."

He's talking about what locals in Ballard call "The Missing Link". It's a 1.2 mile gap in the 40-year-old Burke-Gilman Trail.

The trail was completed in 1978 from the Kenmore area all the way to Lake Union. Sections have been added over the decades to complete the multi-use path all the way to Golden Gardens Park on Seattle's Puget Sound waterfront.

While the 1.2 mile path was designated to go along a city right-of-way along Shilshole Avenue NW, large industrial businesses on that street sued and won in 2009, saying the city didn't follow it's own rules regarding providing multiple routes and getting public comment.

"Something has to be done," says Gerome.

So now the Seattle Transportation Department has come back with both options and public hearings.

"There are four routes the city is proposing and there are pros and cons to all of them."

Haley Keller, co-owner of Peddler Brewing Company in the booming Ballard neighborhood, made a video showing each route from a bicycle rider's point of view. (A link to the documentary will be at the end of this article.)

She doesn't want to say which route she prefers, but instead wants people to get active and make sure the city knows it's time to get this project finally completed. "The Burke-Gilman Trail is the gem of the city for bike paths and it’s ridiculous it’s not finished yet."

ballard 4 options

Shilshole Avenue NW has two options, one on each side of the road. The South Shilshole Option would have four intersections for bicyclists to navigate, the least of any of the four options. Leary Avenue Option has a lot of freight traffic, but this option takes away the least amount of parking of the four choices. The Ballard Avenue route is causing the most controversy. It cuts through the historic business district and the popular Ballard Farmers Market.BFM 2

"It’d be really sad to have the Market go away," says Doug Farr.

He's the manager of the year-round market that attracts more than a half million people annually to the neighborhood.

Farr says the market would only completely disappear during construction, but he's worried that his customers might disappear for good if the city chooses the Ballard Avenue option, because the new footprint of the market would shrink by about 40% to make room for the trail.

"[The Ballard Farmers Market] benefits so many people as well as the neighborhood."

For injured cyclist Tommy Gerome, he says getting bikes away from cars keeps everyone safer. And the city just needs to complete the multi-use path.

"People need to understand both sides of the spectrum, the automobile side and the cyclist side. And have concern for each other."

There are public hearings at Leif Erickson Hall in Ballard on Thursday evening at 7/14 and this coming Saturday in the afternoon.

To watch Haley Keller's documentary: https://youtu.be/GUuvpfy_Rd8
To email the City of Seattle about the Missing Link project: BGT_MissingLink_Info@seattle.gov
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