Judge Rules Against Completion of Burke-Gilman "Missing Link"

By Josh Cohen April 16, 2010

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This post has been corrected. The Judge ruled for an environmental analysis, not a full Environmental Impact Statement.

King County Superior Court Judge James Rogers finally weighed in on the twice-delayed Burke-Gilman "Missing Link" lawsuit against the city this morning, ruling that the city needs to do more environmental analysis of a five-block section of Shilshole Ave between 17th Ave NW and NW Vernon Pl, where cyclists must leave the Burke-Gilman and ride through a heavily trafficked industrial area. He ruled against the seven plaintiffs, representing industrial businesses in Ballard, on eight of the nine issues they raised.

The environmental review process, along with the likely appeals from the plaintiffs, will delay the completion of the trail extension for an indefinite period.

The ruling, which orders the city to do a full environmental-impact statement (EIS), comes almost a year after Seattle Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner upheld a Seattle Department of Transportation's determination that the trail would not have a significant environmental impact.

Beth Miller, executive director Ballard Chamber of Commerce, is generally happy with the ruling.

"While we may disagree with a part of the judge's decision, we are pleased that the section that we are the most concerned about in terms of public safety and other issues that it will be sent back to SDOT for further study," said Miller. "We hope that with this process, the community can sit down again and come up with come careful compromising that will at least make everyone comfortable going forward."

David Hiller, Cascade Bicycle Club's advocacy director, says delaying the completion of the trail leaves cyclists open to ongoing safety risks.

"We fully expect the [Ballard businesses] to appeal the decisions, which could potentially tie this up in court for years," said Hiller. "But in the meantime, we have dozens of reports a year of injury and hundreds of first responder calls to the missing link area.  It's just a matter of time before a broken hip becomes a fatal head injury."

Many cyclists have been injured along Shilshole, particularly at the train track crossing. Ironically, the lawsuit focused on the safety issues of having a bike trail run through an industrial area in addition to the environmental impact.

I have a call in to the attorney for the businesses for confirmation that they will appeal the rulings.

According to SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan, the department is still reviewing the ruling and needs to consult with the City Attorney's office to decide what to do next, whether that's appealing the ruling or moving forward with an EIS.
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