All photos by Zachariah Bryan
East Ballard Community Association joined with FeetFirst to provide a walking tour of East Ballard, taking note of several infrastructure projects currently in progress.

Photos: A walking tour of East Ballard

Last thursday, The Ballard News-Tribune joined the East Ballard Community Association and FeetFirst on a walking tour of East Ballard. The tour gave an update on several infrastructure-related actions happening in the neighborhood, including the Ballard Greenway, RapidRide, high capacity transit, the 14th Ave NW Boulevard Park, roadside rain gardens and the dangerous pedestrian crossing at 11th Ave NW and NW Market St.

While The Ballard News-Tribune has covered all of these stories, the walking tour gave a nice overview and showed how they all connected and worked together.

The group met up at Reuben's Brews, the now almost year-old small brewery headed by owner Adam Robbings. In his short tenure in Ballard, Robbings' has been racking up award. Recently, at the Washington Beer Awards, his brewery won five medals and runnerup for best small brewery -- no small feat in a state (and a neighborhood) oozing with breweries.

In addition, Reuben's Brews has started taking a stake in the community with their thank You thursday, which benefits community organizations each week. $1 per pint goes toward the week's selected organization. Last week, they benefited FeetFirst.

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From there, the EBCA and FeetFirst folks took to the pavement, walking their way up to NW 58th St and 15th Ave NW, where EBCA and Ballard Greenways member Aaron Solorzano spoke about what is happening with the Ballard Greenways.

By 15th, two notable actions have taken place. First, speed humps have sprouted up, noticeably slowing down traffic. Second, a small concrete island has been placed at the entrance of 58th from 15th, preventing traffic from going Eastbound into 58th while still allowing bicycles -- a measure to help keep kids at the St. Alphonsus Parish School safe.

However, some drivers still ignore the island. As Solorzano was speaking, one person dodged the island and drove into 58th via the wrong lane.

East Ballard

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Next up the group headed north, to NW 60th St, to speak about RapidRide D and the proposed high capacity transit line, which could mean light rail, streetcar or something else.

RapidRide D opened up to Ballard, while nixing other lines, to much initial disgruntlement. While several kinks have been worked out on the line, and residents seem more used to the service, it has some anxious to get something quicker and more reliable.

"Some call it bus rapid transit lite, because it doesn't have a lot of capital to it," said FeetFirst's Jack Whisner. He added, "Good transit is fast, reliable transit. RapidRide is a way to provide fast, reliable transit without the greater cost of light rail or streetcar."

Patrice Carrol of the Department of Planning and Development described how high capacity transit could alter land use regulations in Ballard, perhaps encouraging a more walkable environment along 15th. While nothing is set in stone yet, she said there will be a lot to look at and discuss as things move forward in the coming years.

A 15th Ave NW corridor study is already underway. It will analyze whether some restrictions should be loosened from strictly industrial to allow more commercial and residential development. the Ballard section of that study will start moving along in the fall.

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At 14th Ave NW, EBCA and Groundswell NW's Dawn Hemminger discussed the 14th Ave NW Boulevard Park, which is moving along.

"This is a mile-and-half-long sea of concrete (which was originally used for the old trolley line)," Hemminger opened.

As a driver rolled by and yelled at the crowd, "Yeah, where are people gonna park?" Hemminger noted that there will be no parking when the park comes to life. Currently, the gravel strip in the middle of the road is used for parking by residents, workers and visitors. Currently the strip provides 89 parking spaces.

Hemminger said that the strip was unusual for neighborhoods in Seattle to have and that in fact the surrounding neighborhood can absorb the lost parking.

"The tradeoff is we are providing a park in a neighborhood that has wanted a green space for over a decade," Hemminger said, noting that the city has tried and failed to identify any other space for a park. She said that this was a creative way to provide a place for people to gather and play, while helping slow drivers who blast through 14th who are avoiding the traffic and stoplights on 15th.

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Down the road, Cari Simson of Antioch University gave an update on roadside rain gardens in East Ballard. The area for the project will take place along 11th Ave NW between NW 56th and NW 58th streets.

Simson said that roadside rain gardens are important to stymy pollution because right now rainwater drains into the pipes and flows down the roads and dumps directly into Salmon Bay, sweeping up and toxins along the way with it. Rain gardens would be a natural, aesthetically pleasing way to biofiltrate the stormwater.

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At 11th Ave NW and Market St, Shannon Dunn explained a desire of the community to create a safer crossing for pedestrians. Right now, pedestrians have to dodge traffic Frogger-style to get across Market St, or else walk way out of their way. However, so far, efforts to convince the Seattle Department of Transportation to do something have not gone very far.

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From there, everyone headed back to Reuben's Brews to enjoy more refreshing beer, thus concluding the walking tour.

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