UPDATE: Bike advocates have responded to the Burke-Gilman ruling.
Astonishing as it may seem, after more than six years, the battle over completing the "Missing Link" of the Burke-Gilman Trail---the 21-block section that stretches from east of the Ballard Bridge to the Ballard Locks---just entered yet another phase on Monday, when a city of Seattle hearing examiner ruled that the project will have to go through a full environmental impact statement (EIS), a lengthy and expensive process.
Cyclists have complained for years about the missing segment of the trail, which forces them to ride through industrial streets, including several sets of railroad tracks that are often slippery and treacherous. Opponents of completing the missing link argue that the Burke-Gilman intersects with too many industrial streets and driveways, and say the city should come up with an alternate route (which would, proponents counter, require cyclists to bike several blocks out of their way in each direction).
Last year, the city issued a Determination of Non-Significance (its third since 2008)---a finding that completing the bike trail will not harm the surrounding environment. This week's ruling overturns that order.
In her ruling, deputy city hearing commissioner Anne Watanabe concluded that the bike trail "may have, in fact, great impacts" and that cyclists would be endangered by trucks passing in and out of the 16 driveways that intersect with the Missing Link. Completing the trail, Watanabe's report says, "would have significant adverse impacts in the form of traffic hazards along the Shilshole Segment because of conflicts between truck movements and the other vehicle traffic and trail users along the Segment."
However, the hearing examiner rejected a number of the Missing Link opponents' claims, including the assertion that the rest of the trail should also go through environmental review; the fact that the city did not "re-interview" businesses along the trail before approving its completion; and the fact that an independent analysis by experts hired by trail opponents showed that trucks and bikes will be in conflict if the trail is completed.
In a statement, Josh Brower, one of the attorneys for the businesses fighting the Missing Link's completion, called the trail "simply too dangerous because it crosses 55 industrial driveways and intersections in just 1.5 miles—or, one crossing every 144 feet."
Brower and his clients have proposed an alternative route for the trail that involves costly Copenhagen-style cycletracks (segregated bike lanes) through Ballard; Missing Link proponents say that alternative is unfunded and would be even more controversial than the Missing Link itself.
We have a call out to the Seattle Department of Transportation to find out what their next steps will be.