The 1.4-mile break, commonly referred to as the “Missing Link,” suspends the trail throughout the majority of Ballard, sending cyclists either up into Ballard traffic or through an industrial zone with hazardous exposed rail tracks and heavy maritime activity. This gap in the trail has been a contentious land-use issue for nearly two decades.
The city’s preferred location to fill in the trail is in mostly the latter zone—running up Shilshole Avenue to 24th before heading to Market Street to connect to the north trail extension.
A group of business owners and union representatives have opposed running a trail on Shilshole, claiming the heavy industrial traffic would be unsafe for cyclists and that the impact to businesses along the road would lead to job loss. Other business owners claim their insurance rates would go up with the trail running past their businesses and take issue with a loss of parking spaces.
The decision today concerns a challenge from business groups on the trail itself, not the specific route. Like with other city land use decisions, a challenge meant that hearing examiner had to decide whether the city did its due diligence in putting together the trail’s environmental impact statement. Today, the examiner decided that it had.
In a release, trail proponents Cascade Bicycle Club said that it’s “a minority of business owners” that have been holding up construction.
“Now more than ever we have a clear path forward to realize a 50-year vision of a completed Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Richard Smith, executive director of Cascade Bicycle Club, in a statement.
“At last we can move forward to complete the missing link of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said City Councilor Mike O’Brien in a statement. “I’m excited to finally see this project through to fruition with an alignment that makes sense for pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks.”
“Missing link” or no, the trail is an important part of the region’s bicycle network. At its northern terminus in Redmond, it feeds into the East Lake Sammamish trail, which travels all the way down to Issaquah.
In Seattle, the trail hits many major city centers, including Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington, and the main commercial districts of Fremont and Ballard.
If no other challenges arise, construction can start after the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gets the OK from Mayor Jenny Durkan.