Burke-Gilman ruling stalls 'missing link'
A proposal to extend the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard was put on hold Friday morning when a King County Superior Court judge ruled that a portion of the proposed "missing link" of the 27-mile trail undergo an environmental analysis.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A proposal to extend the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard was put on hold Friday when King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers ruled that a portion of the proposed "missing link" of the 27-mile trail undergo an environmental analysis.
It wasn't immediately clear what the delay might mean for the long-delayed $14 million project that would complete the trail through Seattle.
Rogers stopped short of requiring an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), but he did say the city needs to do an environmental assessment of the 17th Avenue Northwest-Northwest Vernon Place section of the trail, near Hattie's Hat restaurant.
"The city is disappointed that this will delay completion of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Seattle," said Rick Sheridan, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation, which was ordered to conduct the new study.
He said the city is reviewing the decision and could appeal, but if it has to do the study it will delay the project at least six months.
The city had planned to put the first section of the trail extension, between 11th and 17th avenues northwest, out to bid next week.
Rogers ruled in favor of the city on most of the issues raised in a lawsuit, brought by businesses along the proposed route. But he ordered an environmental study be done of a five-block section from 17th Avenue Northwest to Northwest Vernon Place, a section the city already has taken out of the trail route, instead diverting the trail up Ballard Avenue.
David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club, said if the 17th-Vernon Place section is going to be studied, maybe the city should return it to the planned route and skip the detour on Ballard Avenue. Dropping that section was a political compromise, "but if the city is forced to do an analysis, maybe we should just proceed with the (original) project.
"For us, it's worth every dime to make sure it's safe," he said.
The case was argued last month before Rogers in King County Superior Court, and a key issue before the judge was whether or not the city sidestepped a required environmental review.
Businesses along the proposed trail long have protested the routing, arguing it would destroy maritime businesses in Ballard. They argued that an environmental-impact statement needed to be done before the trail could proceed.
The city said it already has rerouted the trail away from the 17th-Vernon Place section because of complaints by the major property owner, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel.
But Rogers said because the 17th-Vernon Place section, called a "gap," was in the original trail plan, the city needs to study it. He said that by failing to study that section, the city was "piece-mealing" the trail.
Businesses fighting the trail were cheered by Roger's ruling. "The judge said SDOT (the Seattle Department of Transportation) has to look at the impacts," said Michelle Rosenthall, with the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, one of the litigants in the lawsuit. "It was left off the checklist, and now (SDOT) has to go back and finish it."
Josh Brower, attorney for the business owners, said he's happy the proposed extension has been sent back to SDOT for more study.
"The city can't build the trail," he said, asserting that the section is one of the most dangerous on the trail.
Either side could appeal Rogers' ruling.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.