It's been decades in the planning and 10 years since the first section of a bicycle and pedestrian path was completed along the Lake Washington Ship Canal in Queen Anne.
But now the Seattle Department of Transportation is poised to finish the job by building a 3/4-mile extension of the path near the ship canal from Sixth Avenue West to West Emerson Street by the Fishermen's Terminal.
"This is a big deal," said SDOT project manager Stuart Goldsmith at a public meeting last week. "It's a really, really critical piece in the urban trail system," he said. "It's a huge leap in connectivity."
Indeed, completion of the asphalt trail will allow pedestrians or bicyclists to leave Magnolia and make their way to the Burke Gilman Trail by crossing the Fremont Bridge, Goldsmith noted at the Sept. 26 meeting.
It's been a difficult planning process, according to Pete Lagerwey, an SDOT supervisor who helped oversee the construction of the first link in the Ship Canal trail in 1996. "Logistically, it's probably the most complicated project we've ever done," he said.
Among other steps, some utilities and water lines will need to be moved, Lagerwey said. The city also had to work a deal with numerous property owners in the light-industrial area by the canal to get land for the trail.
But the property owners were very cooperative, and it wasn't necessary to use eminent domain to get the land, he said. "We never even used the word."
Rail-banked tracks owned by the Burlington Northern Railroad will also have to be moved in some areas along the new trail, but the most complicated part of the plan was figuring out how the trail would cross the BNSF tracks, Lagerwey said. "Burlington Northern has no obligation to cooperate in areas with active tracks," he added. "But they have."
The at-grade crossing across the tracks will be shaped roughly like a Z, which will slow down bicycles and force riders to look both ways as they follow the 10-foot-wide trail, which has room for two bicycles.
There will also be warning signals on both sides of the tracks, though trains usually travel at 5 mph, Goldsmith said. "Basically, they gave us a template and said fit it in the space," he said of the railroad company.
There won't be separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists or skaters on the new trail like there are at Green Lake, and there will be no landscaping, Goldsmith said. "There's not a lot of room for anything fancy here."
Several bicyclists at the meeting were excited about the development, but one wanted to know about signage along the trail. The city is already working on a bicycle master plan for the entire city, Lagerwey said. "A way-finding system is part of it."
The owner of a business near the planned trail also wanted to know about rules of the road for bicyclists because trucks will be crossing the path.
"The same hierarchy that applies to streets [applies] to bike trails," Lagerwey said. But he also said that SDOT will look at traffic volumes and extenuating circumstance before making any decisions about signs. The plan might include some yield or stop signs along the trail, Goldsmith added. "That's still something we're examining."
Initial estimates peg the construction costs of the new trail at between $1.5 million and $2 million, he said. But Goldsmith cautioned that a clearer picture of costs won't be possible until the bids start coming in.
The project is fully funded; the money will come from the Pro Parks Levy, an old open-space bond issue, some federal grants and some local matching funds.
SDOT hopes to complete the design and start relocating the utilities this year, Goldsmith said. "I'm pretty optimistic we'll get this started next year," he said of the track realignment and trail construction.
Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at email@example.com or 461-1309.[[In-content Ad]]