If you’ve been on the Burke-Gilman Trail between Stone Way and Phinney Avenue in recent days, you may have seen signs indicating that a section of the trail will be closed due to construction from July 11, 2016 to October 31, 2016. But as of Tuesday, July 12, the trail was still open. So what gives?
A July 6 Washington State Department of Transportation blog post states, “A short section of the trail in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood will be closed for safety reasons as crews continue their preservation work on the Aurora Avenue Bridge.” Seattle Bike Blog immediately posted their response to this news and if that post and its comments are any indication, the backlash against this pending closure and the corresponding signed detour of bicyclists along a very busy North 34th Street was swift and vocal.
Apparently the negative response caught the ear of the folks at WSDOT, because their blog post was updated on July 8, stating, “The planned closure of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood on Monday, July 11 is postponed. WSDOT will work with the bicycle community, the City of Seattle and others on next steps to provide passage for bikers and pedestrians near the Aurora Bridge work zone.”
I emailed Kris Olsen, the author of the WSDOT blog post, asking what (if anything) concerned citizens can do to express their opinion on the closure and the reroute, and what the timeline for “next steps” is. Kris replied, “We are reviewing all our options to complete the bridge painting work and the effect on the Burke-Gilman Trail. Since the Burke-Gilman Trail runs primarily through privately owned land in this area, there is no formal public comment period. However, I am working on the outreach to the area and I’m happy to answer citizens questions and concerns if they wish to send me an email. As far as a timeline for next steps, we are working with the Cascade Cycling Club, the City of Seattle, the property owner, and the contractor to reach resolutions as quickly as possible to provide trail users with notice and keep the work on schedule.”
Kris can be reached at [email protected].
To me, the detour route along North 34th between Stone and Phinney is a bad idea. I ride North 34th frequently, but I’m a regular bike commuter, comfortable riding in traffic. This stretch of road is sketchy for casual and recreational riders, especially considering the construction project just east of Fremont Ave, where a barrier partially impedes the westbound bike lane. And while riding eastbound on 34th, I’ve had several close calls with cars rolling into the bike lane from Troll Ave, and also turning right onto Northlake Way at Stone.
As Seattle Bike Blog notes, a better signed detour would be on what WSDOT is calling their “alternate route” which goes along Northlake Way, adjacent to Adobe and Google (beware of solowheels).
Perhaps an even better solution would be to not close the trail at all. Work is not being done on the trail itself. The trail is being closed because, “Cleaning and repainting the historic Aurora Avenue/George Washington Memorial Bridge requires some big equipment that must be located close to the bridge. The area immediately west of the Lake Washington Rowing Club is the only suitable location to place this equipment. It wouldn’t be safe to have trail users trying to negotiate their way through the area so it was agreed that to keep trail users safe, that section should be blocked off.”
With the crazy rate of growth Seattle is currently undergoing, cyclists and pedestrians have seen access to sidewalks, paths, and trails impeded and rerouted. Every day is a new adventure in this town. The least WSDOT can do is give us access to our most popular recreational trail during the nicest months of the year.
For me, it’s a non-issue. On a bicycle, I already take the bike blog detour whether the trail is open or not. I haven’t taken that segment of the trail for so long I can’t remember for sure why I avoid it, likely because it’s a little tight. On foot, I would rather be on the sidewalk on 34th. Runners probably ought to follow the same route as the bicycles, but it isn’t quite as obvious what to do there, so maybe they’re the users who would have a real complaint.
To clarify — it’s a little hard to see on the map image here — the closure is apparently just the corner of the trail where it passes behind the rowing club, and the bike blog detour rejoins the trail before Aurora, where the trail crosses Northlake with a stop sign.