SDOT
SDOT says completing the trail is estimated to cost $14 million.

Should the BGT follow Shilshole Avenue NW?

Ballard coalition rolls out opposition against Mayor’s plans for ‘missing link’

A coalition of Ballard business owners, labor leaders and community activists are voicing opposition to Mayor Ed Murray’s recent announcement for a framework for completing the ‘missing link” -- the gap in the Burke Gilman Trail in Ballard.

The group favors a Ballard cycle track along LearyAvenue and Northwest Market Street, which was one of four alternative routes the city was considering up until a few weeks ago.

“Once again, the inequitable priorities of the Mayor are reflected in how he spends public money. … Everyone wants safe passage for pedestrians and bikers throughout the city. But this multi-million-dollar project north of the ship canal is another example of the city’s deliberate inattention to Seattle’s real world socioeconomic imbalances,” said Josh Brower of Veris Law Group and spokesperson for the coalition. “The Mayor and Councilmember O’Brien continue to be tone deaf to Seattle’s real issues and problems.”

The Burke-Gilman Trail is a 10 to 12 foot path that extends from the north end of Lake Washington for 18 miles into Ballard. The missing link is a one-and-a-half mile gap in the trail that extends from 11th Avenue N.W. and N.W. 45th Street to 30th Avenue N.W. at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

SDOT recently reported that they were focusing on the north or south side of Shilshole Avenue as a viable route. They a dropped the Leary and Ballard Avenue routes at the end of February and then on Feb. 28 Mayor Murray proposed the trail would follow Northwest Market Street between the 24th Avenue Northwest and the Ballard Locks, moving to the south side of Shilshole Avenue Northwest.

“After years of disagreement, we have a path forward to finally complete the ‘missing link’ of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Mayor Murray in the announcement. “Bicyclists and pedestrians will no longer need to weave, dodge, or hold their breath while navigating through Ballard and maritime businesses along the water will maintain access to the roads they depend on.”

SDOT is expected to release a final environmental review of the project in May.

A main contention the coalition carries is the location and cost of the trial, stating that $2 million is a more appropriate amount to spend on a route on Leary Avenue Northwest, which they say would not harm the businesses along the route and would put cycles out of harms way by avoiding some 50 driveways along the City’s proposed route. According to the SDOT, completing the trail is estimated to cost $14 million.

In addition, the coalition drew attention to the Seattle Public Utilities Ship Canal Water Quality Project that plans for construction at the Yankee Diner, which borders a segment of the where the trail is planned. Construction is scheduled through 2025. In a recent Central Ballard Association meeting, City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said that the missing link is planned to be constructed within the next year and that preliminary planning would allow for approximately five years of trail use before construction for the water quality project would need to take out a segment of the trail. The coalition says this is a waste of money.

Furthermore, the coalition said that the businesses along the proposed route would be harmed by the construction and the path itself.

“Ballard is one of Seattle's most precious neighborhoods and one of the things that makes it special is that it has its own economy. So many union members live and work in Ballard in the heavy industrial economy as concrete mixers, machinists, warehouse workers and, of course, in Ballard’s world-renowned fisheries,” said Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the King County Labor Council. “I'm a cyclist myself but I could not see putting a trail where it would jeopardize the livelihood of so many families. It makes the most sense to put the trail on Leary and Market and keep Shilshole a productive industrial zone.”

“We really have to look at who we are as a city when a recreational trail could displace union and family- wage jobs,” said Scott Anderson, owner of CSR Marine on Shilshole Avenue. “If you believe that the future of this city is the tech industry alone, then I ask you to remember that famous billboard erected during an aerospace downturn that read, ‘will the last person in Seattle turn the lights out?’ The truth is, companies like mine and other maritime-based industry here in Seattle have a tradition that makes us among the best in the world. Our local economy is stronger because of the variety of good-paying jobs we offer people with all skill levels.”

However, the coalition opinion does not include the majority of industry in Ballard. Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association – a long time opponent of the City’s plans for the trail –shared support for the Mayor’s proposal in February.

“This plan balances the needs of maritime industrial businesses and the community. We look forward to working with the City, bicycling and pedestrian advocates, and Ballard residents in a manner that meets the needs of everyone that uses this corridor and maintains the vitality of the Ballard maritime industry,” said Wasserman.

Warren Aakervik (Ret.) of Ballard Oil, another longtime opponent of the trail going through industrial/high truck traffic areas, also shared support for the mayor.

“This is a great announcement for people who use the Burke-Gilman Trail and for nearby businesses,” said Aakervik. “The City of Seattle, businesses, and all the stakeholders are committed to a trail that is safe for recreation and commuting and allows for predictable access for trucks using the corridor. Our maritime businesses are dependent on easy access to the water and roads, and this agreement gets us that. This is a win for everyone.”

The coalition also brought up the City’s emphasis on the project, stating that the City has disproportionately focused attention on communities not of color. They state that of the five major Bicycle Master Plan projects, four are outside of communities of color.

“For several years, many people have been focused on finishing a section of the Burke Gilman Trail through Ballard where plenty of facilities already exist,” said Pamela Banks, President and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. “Meanwhile, in south and southeast Seattle, there is very little that is comparable in terms of spending on infrastructure, promoting bicycling and pedestrian safety. Seattle prides itself on an identity of addressing equity but continues to fail to address some of the most mundane issues of race, class and social justice. We can do better.”

The coalition said they plan to engage with Seattle City Council as plans for the trial evolve.

Find out more at their website, www.ballardcycletrack.com

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