SEATTLE — After more than a decade of waiting, Seattle could finally tie up a frustrating loose end and complete the Burke-Gilman Trail.
The city has come up with four possible options to complete the missing link.
It’s been a longtime coming because of everything from safety concerns to legal worries from businesses who could be affected by the project.
Bicyclists believe anything will be better than what they have now.
“It’s frustrating for me as a citizen of this city to just not have this trail finished,” said Jessica Dickinson.
Dickinson knows what it’s like to ride a bike through the missing link along Salmon Bay. In 2014, she said, her tire got caught in a railroad track and tossed her to the ground.
“It was a very traumatic incident,” she said.
The crash broke her arm and she underwent multiple surgeries. Screws held her bones together while she healed. She said the unfinished portion of the trail is a safety hazard for everyone.
“It was very freighting,” she said. “I had to walk my bike across the tracks because I was afraid of falling again.”
The trail runs nearly continuously from Kenmore all the way to Golden Gardens Park on Puget Sound, except for the 1.2-mile-long stretch in Ballard, which has come to be called the ‘Missing Link.’
Cyclists complain they have to share a narrow shoulder and compete with large trucks.
“There has to be a way to move forward with this and it has to be embracing the change that’s happening in Ballard,” said Kevin Carrabine with the group Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail.
In 2009, large industrial businesses won a lawsuit against the city claiming planners didn’t provide multiple route options or gather public comment.
“They happen to be folks with bank accounts and lawyers, and they have delayed this process for a long time,” said Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien.
After completing an environmental impact study and months of debate, the city has narrowed down a solution to four options to complete the trail. Many believe the quickest route is also the safest. Called the ‘Shilshole South Alternative,’ advocates said cyclists will only have to cross a handful of driveways.
O’Brien believes construction could begin as early as 2018 if city planners and the mayor’s office agree.
“Based on all the information I’ve seen in these environmental documents, I think that should be our preferred alternative and we should move as a city building that asap,” he said.
The Seattle Department of Transportation could decide which route will fill the gap within a few weeks.