Moving the missing-link section of the Burke-Gilman trail from Shilshole Avenue to Leary Way is a solution that is simple, common-sense and should have been pursued all along.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and City Council members like to talk about supporting working-class people, good jobs, good wages and building a world-class city. Unfortunately, that talk sometimes doesn’t include the people and businesses who are working here right now to build this city, keep it supplied and provide good jobs.
One of the few remaining and thriving vestiges of blue-collar, working-class Seattle is along Shilshole Avenue in Ballard. While the old neighborhood has clearly changed in the past 20 years, its gritty roots are a source of pride — and a source of family-supporting jobs. These are jobs that keep our city strong and prosperous.
Yet, for more than 20 years, the city has been determined to route the final 1.4-mile segment of the Burke-Gilman Trail along Shilshole, endangering the industrial and maritime businesses there, and those who work with them.
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It’s obvious to those of us who work or do business on Shilshole that combining ready-mix concrete trucks, dump trucks, an active railroad and bicycles is a grave mistake. There are 55 driveways and hundreds of heavy trucks crossing the proposed bike trail; it will be only a matter of time before a bicyclist and a truck collide and someone dies.
We know it, and the city knows it. Yet the city refuses to budge from that path, even after wasting millions of dollars and years in court.
So we are offering the city a solution that is simple, common-sense and should have been pursued all along: Move the missing link section of the Burke-Gilman trail to Leary Way.
Leary is one of the city’s designated multimodal streets, and adding the bike trail to Leary will create a “complete street.” The bike trail will connect smoothly from 17th Avenue Northwest onto Leary, finally finishing the Burke-Gilman Trail.
Drawings by a professional designer were given to the mayor and City Council last month illustrating how bus-rapid-transit lanes, car lanes, protected bike lanes and an enhanced pedestrian environment will complete Leary along an important neighborhood transportation corridor.
A petition with more than 5,000 signatures supporting the Leary plan and urging city leaders to take quick action to adopt the plan were delivered to the council and mayor.
Business owners along Leary are among the biggest supporters of adding the bike lane. They see value in bringing the bicyclists past their doors, and the benefits of a slower, softer buffer between vehicles and folks on the sidewalks.
Moving the bike path to Leary will cost less than $15 million, compared with the $30 million to build it on Shilshole. City transportation planners say Leary will give up only 82 parking spaces, compared with 344 spaces that would be lost on Shilshole.
Seattle City Council members can easily and quickly pass a resolution adopting the Leary route to finally finish the bike trail, saving taxpayers millions of dollars, saving jobs, saving lives and avoiding future litigation. It’s the responsible decision.
On the other hand, encouraging bike riding on Shilshole Avenue is irresponsible and dangerous. Spending millions in taxpayer money on a section of trail is not going to change the basic fact: bikes and heavy trucks don’t mix.
This is an easy fix that the mayor or the City Council — or both — can make happen quickly. It’s time for Seattle leaders to take a stand for businesses that have been here for generations, that literally built our city, and for workers who take pride in their jobs.
We are as eager as everyone else to finish the Burke-Gilman Trail. We pledge to actively work with the city to build the missing link — let’s just first make sure we build it in the right place.