On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner disappointingly ruled in favor of the Ballard Business Appellants by sending the updated design for the Missing Link stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail back to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) for a full Environmental Impact Statement.
The Missing Link section of the Burke-Gilman Trail refers to the area where the trail ends at Ballard’s Fred Meyer and people are left to find their own route to the Chittenden Locks where the trail picks up again. The Missing Link also includes the most dangerous rail road track crossings in the city, on Shilshole Avenue below the Ballard Bridge, which is the cause of numerous bicycle crashes every year.
For years, the City has been eager to begin construction on the fully funded Missing Link segment, but the process has continuously been stalled by a string of lawsuits by the Ballard Business Appellants, which includes the Ballard Chamber of Commerce and businesses like Ballard Oil and Salmon Bay Sand & Gravel.
Earlier this year, SDOT once again reissued a revised Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) on the Missing Link design after King County Superior Court Judge Rogers requested further study. In submitting the revised DNS, SDOT determined that “this proposal still will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment”.
However, at a third go at the Hearing Examiner’s office this past week, the Examiner disagreed with SDOT, stating that the Shilshole Avenue Segment of the Burke-Gilman completion project will create “significant adverse impacts in the form of traffic hazards” due to conflicts between truck movements and trail users.
“We are disappointed,” said Chuck Ayers, Executive Director of Cascade Bicycle Club. “The Missing Link continues to be a major safety concern, and this setback perpetuates the problems that already exist with the rail road tracks, navigation, and interaction between road users.”
While it is up to the City now to determine where they want to go from here, Ayers hopes to see a quick response from the City.
“We want to see fast action to bring all the stakeholders together to discuss our options. Something has to be done to improve the safety on the Missing Link segment until a trail is built,” said Ayers. “We hope the City will do whatever is legally required to move the project forward.”