Environmental study required for ‘Missing Link’

Updated: King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers has ruled that the city must perform an environmental study before a decision can be made to complete the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail.

Although Judge Rogers ruled in favor of the city on a majority of the issues raised in the suit, he sent the project back to the Seattle Department of Transportation for review because a 5-block section between 17th Ave NW & NW Vernon was not studied under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).  It’s unclear how long this study will take.

“We’re really disappointed… It could be years, not to mention the 800 or 900 people who will be injured on the tracks during that time,” said David Hiller with the Cascade Bicycle Club.  He spoke with MyBallard in the courtroom moments after the judge’s decision.

Hiller believes Cascade will now push for the permanent route to be built as soon as possible, that the evaluation of alternative routes be dropped, and that the trail go straight up Shilshole.

In July 2009, a coalition of Ballard industrial businesses, associations and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court challenging the city’s plans to complete the Burke Gilman trail. Specifically, the lawsuit questions the city’s environmental review of the project. Among the concerns were safety and parking.

Josh Brower, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs, also spoke with MyBallard at the courthouse.

“Our clients aren’t anti-trail, they’re not anti-bike.  We want a safe trail that allows people to get through this area without undermining maritime viability.”

No final decision can be made on the completion of the missing link until the environmental review on the stretch of the trail from 17th Ave NW to NW Vernon has been conducted.

(We updated this story to clarify that the judge ordered an environmental study, not a full Environmental Impact Statement.)

Earlier: Background on the debate surrounding the missing link

99 comments on “Environmental study required for ‘Missing Link’”

  1. Exactly what Hiller and SPG noted – the silver lining here is that we can dispense with the absurd “interim route”, created to appease SBSG and Ballard Oil (that worked out well, didn't it), and build the “future route” first.

    For all the time and money that's been wasted on the lawsuits, the Chamber could have worked out a deal for displaced parking at the old Yankee Diner lot (hotel or no hotel, there's plenty of room) or similar location.

  2. Well, it was abandoned.

    The BNSF abandoned it.

    When the city proposed putting the trail in, the Ballard industrials banded together and purchased a railroad.

    Yes, it is used…to pull 2-3 train cars a few times a week at 8-12 mph after 10pm.
    Mid-day it is used for free parking by the people who are suing the city.

  3. Mogan-diggens

    due diligence is an environmental study on a section of trail the City makes clear, as did the City Council in 2003, that they have NO intention of building as part of this project or in the foreseeable future. So that's a good 'protection of the environment' ??

    Our legal system does allow seemingly endless opportunities to obstruct and delay – when will the appellants stop wasting taxpayer money, challenging a decision of non-significance upheld twice (City Hearing Examiner, and now, Superior Court judge) to finally construct the planned, designed, and funded sections of the Burke-Gilman Trail?

  4. Don't count on it, gurple. With money to burn, nearly all things are possible (delay, delay, delay).

  5. dmcmanus

    devil is in the detail.
    i'ts not 140 cars parked along shilshole

    it's about 160 or so, stretched from 11th NW to 28th NW…one clump would impact mostly employee parking (11th to 17th) and the other clump would impact employee and visitor parking (Vernon to 28th NW).

    and you will note, if you look, dozens and dozens of under=used, revenue-generating parking spaces on streets and in lots within 1/4 mile of almost anywhere you want to be in Ballard.

    We need to wake up about parking in Ballard – we can do some really good things. We just have to sit down and figure it out –

    No matter on which right of way you complete the burke-gilman trail, parking will be lost, and businesses and residents will be impacted (kind of like replacing the viaduct, constructing light rail, 520 bridge, etc. ) We live in a built world – how we create opportunities for positive change around those impacts is the discussion we should be having in Ballard, not this one.

  6. The City didn't go through proper procedures, I know this isn't popular to say because many of you want your bike trail like a little kid wants hisher candy and cries. There are rules to follow, sorry that they are applied for all!!!!!

    The Ballard Chamber boycott must be working….Chai House, Bookstore, and many other businesses have closed their doors. You are having an impact!

  7. Really, BBO, could you come with a more text book example of Fallacious Argument? That bit of verbal misdirection may work on Fox News, but in a relatively open forum, you will be called on it.

  8. How a Chamber of Commerce Works:

    Regardless of what any web site, PR, spokesman or mission statement says, at the end of the day a chamber of commerce is “a form of business network, e.g., a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses”. To this end, many engage in community activities, interests, festivals and the like, but commerce is the goal. This is NOT a condemnation, but a frank observation.

    In the best of these organizations, the full membership is vocal & active. In others, a small circle controls the agenda. In either case, any appeal from the community or private individuals will be weighed against the goals of the Chamber itself. If those appeals are not deemed suitably consequential when considered against the Chamber's interests, they will generally be disregarded. All rhetoric aside, this is obviously the case with the handful of businesses that have been the most aggressive in blocking the trail project (namely, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, it would seem). Once again, not a condemnation and certainly their prerogative as a private organization.

    Given those goals and realities, yes, it is possible for community opinion to overcome the special interests of certain businesses with a vested interest through long court engagements and by overcoming continual delaying tactics, but it is also possible to simultaneously address the root motivation by changing the balance between “Appears to Benefit Commerce” and “The Community Wants a Trail”. More castles fall for lack of supplies than by violent sieges. By engaging in a boycott and dialogue of WHY this was being done with the business owners that compose the Ballard Chamber of Commerce. Members of the Chamber then face a few scenarios/conclusions:

    1) The business benefits of respecting the wishes of the community outweigh the business benefits to SBS&G, Et alia. They push their representation in the Chamber to change its agenda regarding the trail.

    2) The business benefits of respecting the wishes of the community do NOT outweigh the business benefits to SBS&G, Et alia. They continue their support of the Chamber agenda.

    3) The business members come to conclusion 1) but find they cannot influence the Chamber (either out of insufficient numbers or because Chamber outright refuses to acknowledge members’ wishes). They lean a valuable lesson about which members the Chamber values most and are given reason to consider their own future membership.

    4) Coyote Joe is a meanie who hates commerce, eats puppies and has some inexplicable, personal grudge against gravel.

    In that worst of scenarios, if a business found that their interests were not supported by the Chamber and left in protest, you can rest assured, they would rocket to the top of MY shopping list for their dedication to being responsive and considerate members of the community.

  9. The word that comes to mind for me each time this story is presented is “petulance.”

    I don't belong to the Ballard Chamber or any other such group because they don't represent me. In this case, The Chamber is in line with my beliefs. Sorry, but in the “real world” businesses and even home owners have regulations, permits, etc. that they must obey……yes, even the City and Feds have to.

    This will play out and whatever the result is…….well, it will be. The way some people on here act is scary. I hate to imagine what you were like on a date when your date declined your advances……did you get upset, barge through and do what YOU wanted, call himher names…….or did you have respect for the rules as established and enforced?

    I am being a tad simplistic, but I hope it may help some of you reflect. I have received threats—-phoned and emailed—-to my business. In this time of economic hardships, I would like to think people would have the sense to do what they can to help biz owners create more jobs and pay more of the incredible taxes that we have as part of our obligations.

  10. A tad simplistic? Comparing the legitimate activities of free citizens to engage in a boycotts to Rape? Nah, no one would accuse you of being off target there.

    The conclusion that people should do whatever is necessary to support business in general regardless of the actions of those business is a perfectly healthy response. Look where it's got us with S&L, Real Estate & Mortgage Industry and Coal Mining. Yup, no problems there.

    *sarcasm off*

  11. Coyote Joe:

    Where did I refer to “boycott” in that post? Hmmm, oh, I guess it wasn't referenced at all, but that would have ignored the posts that “Coyote Joe” has on here, and this is not about a bike trail but more about COYOTE JOE and what he wants…………….perhaps? Read what is in a post, and not what is not.

    There, I thought you would like seeing your name again.

  12. I didn't conclude that people should do whatever is necessary to support business, did I???????

    The examples you cited are nothing I supported, and by trying to be smart this downturn in the economy hasn't impacted me with the exception of retirement.

    However, the cyclists turning a blind eye on regulations that the City didn't follow is the same sort of lax thinking that ends up with people being exposed to asbestos for many years while the Feds knew the dangers, and allows government agencies to feel entitled to do things that are wasteful, illegal, etc.

  13. Fair enough, please replace the term “boycott” with “The way some people on here act is scary”.

    And if you have a serious objection to the name Coyote Joe, I'll gladly use a randomly generated one with each reply if it removes that objection. :-)

    Seriously, while I don't agree with your opinion or conclusions, you don't seem me attacking your right to express them by implying you're just making them to see you name appear.

  14. You did state “In this time of economic hardships, I would like to think people would have the sense to do what they can to help biz owners create more jobs and pay more of the incredible taxes that we have as part of our obligations.”. I don't believe that helping business is the highest expression of community spirit. It opens far too many doors to compromise of that very community. I believe the examples provided are valid examples of where business for business sake created that very compromise.

  15. BBO
    Point of clarification regarding the Superior Court Judge's ruling

    -He did support the City Hearing Examiner's rulings in regards to the challenges made by the Ballard Business Appellants – that is, he agreed that for the sections of trail that the City has actually designed, and has funding for, met the criteria for 'Determination of Non-Significance'

    -The City explicitly and robustly declined to plan for, design, or fund a trail between 17th NW and NW Vernon – this was the Mayor's conclusion in 2003, and the City Council's as well — it was felt that there was too much right of way business activity in this section to build a trail now.

    -The judge, in line with prior law, said, if ultimately, at some point in the future, the City decides to build the trail along Shilshole b/w 17th NW and NW Vernon, then they DO need to do an environmental analysis of this section,

  16. oops, cut myself off some how….where was i?

    ..then they DO need to do an environment analysis of this section, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE NO LEGISLATIVE OR FUNDING TO DO SO NOW.

    – So, it's not that the City didn't 'follow the rules' it's that they felt that it didn't make any sense to do an analysis for a section they've made clear is not on the radar in the foreseeable future.

    -Hence, they'll spend needlessly to design and analysis the impact of something they will not build.

    On every other count, the City did follow the rules, the Hearing Examiner agreed, and now a Superior Court judge has concurred.

    So, the analysis will need to be done. I think that's too bad, but that's the law, according to the judge. I hope the City does not challenge it, just as I hope the business appellants, after that analysis is done, will no longer challenge this up the chain of legal options. Why continue to do this, if you just 'want the city to follow the rules'? . The route was decided in 2003, after incredible public outreach, and the voters have twice voted to tax themselves to fund portions of it (Bridging the Gap and Parks Green Levy). Legal appeals can always continue to be mounted, but more useful expenditures can be made – on improved safety design at crossings, etc.

  17. Am I missing something here? It seems the crux of the issue is that the few businesses involved have vehicles that cross the path and that could lead to potential accidents. Has it ever been proposed that something like railroad crossing arms be used when trucks are entering or exiting the businesses. And when this happens arms come down that prohibit bikers from crossing. And when the truck is past the arms go up allowing the bikers to proceed?

  18. Whatever do you mean to say? Was that just some drunk rambling, because it doesn't make any sense.

  19. No, pattr, you're not missing anything.

    Part of the problem seems to be the conflicting desires of bicycle commuters (and walkers/runners) versus bicycle fitness enthusiasts. I'm guessing that the majority of the commuters would be fine putting up with the crossing arms, and/or some stop signs, just like automobile commuters are, as long as the goal and the result was a safer commute.

    On the other hand, the bicycle fitness folks (the faster ones who use the trail for their training miles) would probably hate the stop and go that would result from doing this, and to a degree I understand why they want what they want – I just think it's just a case of the fitness folks knowing that if we implement a solution that works for everyone but them, we'll never revisit the issue and they'll have to settle for something other than their solution.

    Let the flamers begin. ;-)

  20. I just think it represents a happy compromise and respresents only a small portion of their bike path and realistically the crossing arms would be up 98% of the time. Both sides have strong opinions a compromise should be acceptable

  21. Actually if you read all of the documentation on this issue (available on the SDOT and CBC web sites) you will find that the city DID go through the proper procedures for the eventual trail route which is along Shilsole Ave not Ballard Ave. Ballard was intended as the temporary route!
    And I know for a fact that the Chai House closed because the rent went up. I seriously doubt any businesses have closed due to a “boycott”.
    This trail has to be completed! I just rode to a job at Northshore YMCA in Bothell and the only part of my trip with any danger was THE MISSING LINK!

  22. pattr:

    Did you know that over 10 years ago the City commissioned a study and that the currently proposed route was not one of the 5 that was proposed? I would bet many people are “missing” that. When Mayor Nickels forced this route through, the City cleverly attempted to navigate required environmental studies and the like.

    Zealots shout “obstructionists” at the business community, but choose to have a “blind eye” when it comes to the real facts of this issue.

    Share the road. That is the motto……so with that in mind, let's share the road, even the ones with pot holes and railroad tracks that cyclists could easily avoid but choose not to!

  23. Blah blah blah… more obfuscation and distraction. The facts are that SBSG doesn't want to take a chance that they'll lose the public land that they've usurped for parking and truck movement in front of their business. They will do whatever it takes to keep this free land even if it means hundreds of injuries while they delay and obstruct.

  24. I'm still a little upset over this trail issue and I'm not alone. I used to be the kind of person who would stand up for the needs of the local industry, but no more. When this area comes up to be rezoned I will write letters and speak in favor of the neighborhood improvement that will be possible with rezoning. In fact, I think I just might start lobbying to get the stretch from the Ballard Bridge to the locks rezoned. I think we can get a lot of public support for a move to make this area more in line with the modern needs of this city and neighborhood. Offices for tech workers, studios for artists, mixed use retail and residential, some new music venues, how will gravel compete with that when the sf rate goes up on their rent?
    These businesses should take notice. Obstruct the progress of a bike trail for the people and you won't have very many people who will support your needs later on.
    Excuse me while I commence my research and proposal writing…

  25. So you KNOW the motives of others? Why do so many not take the facts at face value and look for some other motive and look to their imaginations is beyond me! Ballard needs more artists and music venues!!! Oh yes, that is the ticket. Rezone the area, drive up the cost per SF for land and building space, that is working so well along Market Street already, isn't it? Perhaps the transients would pick up for the lagging tax base when the “perfect Ballard” is achieved that is void of solid businesses………..come on people, what was wrong with the original studies from the early 90s????

  26. What unstudied route are you referring to – the interim or future route? I wouldn't be surprised if the interim route wasn't proposed, since it's asinine.

    Just because I'm on a bike doesn't mean I don't appreciate a direct route as much as any driver, and diverting up to Ballard and then back down to Shilshole just so SBSG employees can park for free on public right of way is ridiculous. There are any number of ways to make the SBSG in/out crossing safe for folks using the trail.

    As for the future route, I'd be shocked if it wasn't among the five, since it's the direct route along the public right of way (currently used for the occasional choo-choo ride).

    But unless you can produce or accurately reference this study, I'll remain more than a bit skeptical.

    As for “petulant”, and “spoiled”, and “childish”, I'm not sure you and the other business owners are coming off as statesmanlike as you might think you are.

  27. Lmao. What a bunch of cry babies. Most of you biking weirdos think its pretty cool to show up at other forums and scream at progress. Have some more of your own medicine.

  28. I still dont get what the big issue is. Both parties are at an impass. So propose a solution that would in some ways serve both parties interest. And in my opinion that solution is keep the route where it is and in the very few places that intersect with a business driveway install crossing arms that lower when trucks enter or leave those establishments. Yes it would for a small percentage of the time require bicyclist to apply their brakes and wait for 10 seconds. But at least it would provide a safer alternative and lower the projected accident rate.

  29. That's great, just take an offhand swipe at the homeless while spreading your lies. The Ballard Corridor Study showed that the “Green Route” that was chosen crosses by far the fewest driveways and has the least vehicle traffic.

  30. Well, the current impass is the result of multiple rounds of consolations by the bicycle side and multiple rounds of stonewalling by the business side.

    The interim route is the compromise to attempt to appease the businesses…and they still sued.

    The businesses clearly stated in their neighborhood plan that their major priority goal was to prevent any new bicycle facility from being added in or near the areas zoned as industrial.

    I firmly believe that this has nothing to do with safety and has everything to do with old ballard vs. new ballard. I have yet to find a clearly stated point by point list of dangers provided by SBS&G or Ballard Chamber of Commerce other than “trucks are dangerous” and “bicycles are unpredictable”.

  31. Which part needs clarification?

    It's in response to a few previous posters. I guess it loses something in
    translation when I don't link each directed comment (I'm assuming everyone
    has read all posts thus far). My bad!

    I'm torn on this subject because I'm a cyclist first and I support the
    Ballard businesses second.
    To generalize, I don't think this is the best route for cycling given the
    heavy industry (industry was there first). Nor do I think the alternative
    plan is to clog up Ballard Ave (getting doored).

    I try to direct my thinking more towards finding *solutions* not just
    cutting each other down.
    The businesses want parking replaced for the 160 some odd spaces that are
    going to be lost. Not for the consumers but for their own vehicles so they
    can park near their business but not take up any parking for their
    customers, clients (free all day parking I might add).

    (BTW – riding a bike when its snowy or icy out does not lend itself to
    intelligent decisions). If someone complains about a dangerous area when its
    snowy or icy out they need to rethink when the root cause of the accident
    took place.

  32. So the judge rules against one of the nine decisions regarding the Burke Gilman Trail completion in Ballard. The one decision was the interim trail along Ballard Avenue from 17th to Vernon Place. The judge is asking SDOT to have the State do a SEPA review of the impact a temporary trail would have on Ballard Avenue.
    The solution to this is simple to complete the trail along the final proposed route along Shilsole and forget the Ballard Avenue interim route.
    We do not need to waste time and money on a SEPA revue of a partial, interim route.
    Let’s get this trail finished ASAP and then we can all find something else to quibble about.
    It is time that we should be able to ride from West Ballard to all points East on a safe trail.
    Walkers want to do the same
    I will now ride Shilshole Ave every time I am going East or West for work or pleasure and take up my legal safe amount of the lane instead of taking the re-routes that I have been taking. And I encourage all riders to do the same.

  33. BBO
    I'm with Julian Davies on this…..what study 10 yrs ago? That would be 2000. Many of us have been in the middle of this issue for several years before that, and I'm not aware, so if I am missing it, I'd love to learn about it. Can you be more specific?

  34. Wait, I think I remember seeing some drawings that were from the late 80s, and in fact, they included nice sidewalks and a trail along Shilshole Ave, along with pavement improvements. In fact, the only improvements done were to the pavement, and perhaps in anticipation of what the City planned then, a railroad was created and right of way was franchised…is this the study you are talking about?

  35. BBO, again, can you be more specific and tell us exactly which study and what routes it was looking at.

    If you have hard evidence that a comprehensive study didn't look at Shilshole, give me your address and I'll come give you a crisp $20.

    For the entire rest of the Burke Gilman Trail, Sammamish River Trail, Lake Samamish Trail, Centennial Trail, and most of the Interurban Trail (except for where things like a shopping mall went in between when the rail was abandoned and when the trail was built) they all followed the abandoned rail routes.

    Unless this study was funded entirely by BINMIC, it would be negligence to not mention that route at all.

  36. I'm guessing you're a cyclist, and I realize you believe the current argument has nothing to do with safety. That being said, let's say you're the “average” bicyclist and get your opinion on the following as ways to increase safety:

    4-way crossing arms?
    4-way traffic lights?
    4-way stop signs?

    enforcement of existing speed limits (the speed limit on the path is 15 mph unless otherwise posted, the speed limit on the streets is 25 unless otherwise posted).

    I'm specifying 4-way as a way to indicate that the inconvenience should be borne by all traffic in all directions, not just the folks on the trial or the ones on the streets.

    Thanks.

  37. Name,

    It depends. What safety problem are you trying to fix? Where are you suggesting that we put stop signs?

    We could put a 4-way stop at every intersection on Shilshole and that would certainly slow traffic down, but you'd end up with people cutting down the stop signs. It is a solution that doesn't make sense for the problem.

    We could put a 4 way stoplight at the entrance of SBS&G, but is it really worth the $250,000 that it costs the city to install one of those?

    So, what safety problem do you think exists in the trail design that needs to be fixed?

  38. @name….I am not a cyclist. I am a citizen who is sick and tired of this debate. To end the impasse I simply am proposing a compromise. A nice paved bike path with 4 way stops for bikes and vehicles sounds reasonable to a non biker/non gravel company owner.

  39. I'm pretty sure that a 4-way stop would have been suggested by SDOT and by Cascade long before they finally agreed to the Ballard Ave interim route that has cyclists crossing Shilshole twice.

    Yes, a 4-way stop at SBS&G's and Ballard Oil's entrances is perfectly reasonable…except that at least for Ballard Oil, Warren claims that the visibility from his trucks is too poor to be able to see cyclists. He doesn't (from what I can see) point to any design aspect of the trail, instead he says that cyclists won't stop and he can't see cyclists so he claims he will close his business the day before the trail opens.

    How do you negotiate with that? He is a nice guy, but won't budge on this.

    Cyclists are tired of this debate too.

  40. The safety problem I'm trying to address is where the trail intersects with hi-traffic streets, or low-traffic intersections with major implications (truck crossings and railroad crossings).

    For starters, what about 4-way stop signs at the entrance to SBS&G, and at that part of the trail near 46th where it crosses the railroad tracks (I've seen lots of complaints about that crossing, and it looks like going slower, or stopping, could eliminate almost all of them for minimal cost)?

    As for the costs, since SBS&G and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce both claim that they're also concerned about safety, asking them to pay for the stop signs, traffic signals, crossing arms, whatever would seem to be a good way to make them put up or shut up. If they decide to underwrite the cost, they could probably write it off as a business expense, and get good pr out of it as well.

    I don't know that people would cut down the stop signs if they were installed. They might complain about it, but risking arrest? And, even if it does piss them off, at least they're getting home in one piece so they can write their representative and complain about it.

  41. pretty comical to assume that anything was suggested or considered in this battle. If cyclist dont stop for a sign then they will get what they deserve same as anyone else that disobeys signs

  42. The only reason why there are any intersections with high traffic streets is because of the compromise forced by SBS&G.

    The original proposal, and the proposed future final route, doesn't cross any high traffic streets. It only crosses a few business entrances and exits.

    There are dozens of ways to solve that problem, and SDOT knows them all and I'm sure SDOT has suggested most of them. A 4-way stop sign is among the simplest. Sensor activated flashing lights, a crosswalk button, a crosswalk, bollard posts, crossing arms, mirrors, barriers that force cyclists to slow to a walking pace, textured pavement, signal lights, and lots of other tools are available to solve any potential safety problem and SDOT likes to use those tools every chance they get.

    This (and the current string of injuries on the tracks) is why I'm convinced that safety is a red herring here.

    I'm convinced that SBS&G and others simply have gotten a free ride on street parking for years and refuse to pay for appropriate parking for their employees. Any trail will take space that these businesses have been using for employee parking.

  43. “A 4-way stop sign … Sensor activated flashing lights, a crosswalk button, a crosswalk, bollard posts, crossing arms, mirrors, barriers that force cyclists to slow to a walking pace, textured pavement, signal lights, and lots of other tools are available to solve any potential safety problem and SDOT likes to use those tools every chance they get.”

    Let's assume you're correct about the motivation of SBS&G, BCoC, and the others supporting them.

    Even so, if these remedies are “available to solve any potential safety problem”, and a safety problem exists (at least at the tracks), do you know if the bicycling organizations pushed for these remedies? I'm not a member of any of the groups involved on either side, but I thought you may know.

  44. So, I guess I didn't explain enough earlier. Those things make sense at intersections, but the track crossing that is a problem isn't at an intersection. It is under 15th mid-block.

    I suppose we could stick stop signs around there, and at least it should slow traffic down a bit, but it seems like that would violate the traffic control device standards. Multiple advocacy groups have pushed SDOT for years to fix that spot. The solution that SDOT came up with was to put the trail in. Other than a trail, my best idea would be to do some land swaps for a couple small corners of land and reconfigure the intersection to the east of 15th…but that is hugely expensive and problematic too.

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