Construction on the missing link is tentatively scheduled to begin this year. But a lawyer for the coalition challenging the city, while stopping short of promising an appeal, said the group would “pursue all of its options.”
The city of Seattle notched a victory Wednesday in its multi-decade, multimillion-dollar effort to fill in a 1.4-mile gap in the Burke-Gilman Trail through Ballard.
A hearing examiner ruled that the city’s environmental-impact statement on the project, which took five years and $2.5 million to complete, is sufficient to move forward in building the trail’s so-called missing link.
A coalition of businesses and unions have long challenged the city’s plans, contending the preferred route, along Shilshole Avenue, will bring cyclists and pedestrians into a heavily trafficked maritime and industrial zone, creating the potential for collisions.
But this stage of the conflict, which has been tied up in litigation for a decade, does not concern the specific route.
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Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil was tasked with determining whether the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had done its due diligence with the environmental-impact statement. He determined that it had.
Seattle previously spent $4.8 million on design work for now-scrapped routes for the trail. The city also spent more than $135,000 in 2017, hiring a private law firm to defend its position in front of the hearing examiner.
In total, the missing link is expected to cost about $20 million.
Construction on the missing link is tentatively scheduled to begin later this year, but the coalition challenging the city, a group of mostly Ballard businesses, including Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, previously promised to appeal the hearing examiner’s decision if it went against them.
Josh Brower, a lawyer for the coalition challenging the trail, stopped short of promising an appeal Wednesday, but he said the coalition would “pursue all of its options.
“The coalition is very committed to resolving this issue short of further protracted litigation but will take all necessary steps to preserve its legal rights and remedies,” Brower said.
The planned route is a compromise, announced by former Mayor Ed Murray, between cycling advocates and several Ballard businesses.
Mayor Jenny Durkan said Wednesday that it is “time to move out of litigation mode.
“I’m committed to finishing the final link of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” Durkan said. “My office has been and will continue working closely with cyclists, industrial businesses, residents, trail advocates and local businesses to move forward on this essential transportation corridor.”
The Burke-Gilman runs for more than 20 miles, from the Ballard Locks to Bothell. But at the gap in Ballard, cyclists are shunted from a separated trail onto a trafficked street, veined with railroad tracks.
City Councilmember Mike O’Brien said he was hopeful construction of the missing link would begin soon.
“My understanding is that it seems unlikely that a higher court would force us to stop work on this now; it would be very unusual,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a long time and unfortunately there’ve been a lot of injuries that at this point were probably unnecessary. But let’s not have another one.”