The impending closure of a two-mile stretch of the Burke-Gilman Trail through Lake Forest Park is still causing concern among residents, cyclists and other trail users.
King County will close the entire section of trail from the Seattle-Lake Forest Park border at Northeast 145th Street to Log Boom Park in Kenmore for construction on June 15 to about the end of September, meaning cyclists will have to use alternate routes.
On sunny days, more than 2,000 people use that section of the trail.
The county is advising that bike commuters and trail users avoid using that section during the construction, said Doug Williams, spokesman for King County Parks and Recreation.
The county suggests using alternate options that include carpooling, telecommuting, and riding Metro buses equipped with bike racks.
“I have heard that King County is telling riders to take the bus around the closed off section of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Darren Manci, manager of Woodinville Bicycle. “The bicycle racks that are installed on the buses only carry four bikes at a time; I don’t see that working out.”
Finding a reasonable detour around the construction zone has been a challenge, the county said. The trail corridor runs along Lake Washington, with steep hills, a fragmented road and sidewalk system, and busy state Route 522 on the upland side.
The original favored detour, a southern section of Beach Drive Northeast that runs parallel to the Burke-Gilman Trail, has been rejected for safety and other reasons after homeowners and others raised concerns to the City Council and King County.
A alternative detour has been identified, but not yet finalized. Permits with the city of Lake Forest Park are pending. The detour route, as indicated by the black-and-white checked path, runs in the picture to the right, is approximately 6.7 miles long and requires crossing SR 522 at a signed intersection. It weaves through the south and east portions of Lake Forest Park including sections of 37th Avenue Northeast, 178th Street Northeast and Ballinger Way.
Signs identifying the detour will be installed soon.
The Cascade Bicycle Club and some Lake Forest Park citizens still doubt the safety of the alternative.
“There is no safe route and we don’t have to accept an unsafe route,” said Jean Thomas, an LFP resident and LFP government critic, who would like to see all riders take a bus or shuttle around the construction. “I’m seriously concerned about the liability to the city not to mention who wants to see people get hurt or worse? Whether they are cyclists or residents there is real risk there.”
Cascade’s concerns lie primarily with the intersections near Lake Forest Park Towne Centre, and spots where pedestrians and cyclists will have to share a narrow sidewalk.
“While we do not intend to delay the project any longer—it’ll be a better trail when it’s done—requiring cyclists to walk their bikes or even ride their bikes in two directions on a narrow sidewalk along a state route should not be considered a safe, viable or preferred detour route,” said John Mauro, the Cascade Bicycle Club's director of policy, planning and government affairs.
Williams did not dispute those concerns but said the alternative route, while not perfect, is the best the county could devise, based on the input from various groups.
“These are reasons why we’re strongly suggesting that people use alternative modes of transportation,” Williams said.
The redevelopment project aims to improve trail safety, with a new, 12-foot-wide asphalt surface and soft-surface shoulders, enhanced traffic controls, improved sight distances and better drainage, according to the county. Right now, this portion of the trail has cracked, uneven asphalt and standing water that can create dangerous conditions for some trail users.
The timing of the project in the late spring, summer and early fall months for two reaons--one, to allow ample light to do work. Second, parts of the project will require crews to work in Lake Washington and Lyon Creek, where a new bridge will be installed, and state law requires that any in-water work must be done in the summer months when the impact on local fish populations is minimal.
Project managers from King County Parks and Recreation will give an update on the project at the annual meeting of the Friends of the Burke-Gilman on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Ballard Library.
The contractor, J.R. Hayes & Sons, Inc. of Maple Valley, is being paid an estimated $2.69 million to do the redevelopment. The company will begin with a yet-to-be-determined section of the trail next month, continuing through the fall.
The King County Parks and Recreation Department has set up a 24-hour hotline (206-462-6348) to dispense information and answer questions about the project. A website, which includes a detailed map of the detour, will launch soon at www.kingcounty.gov/burkegilmantrail. It also will include an email account to collect feedback from trail users and citizens.
The county has already sent notices to residents of the surrounding and nearby properties.
The City of Seattle manages the portions of the trail that fall within its city limits, and King County manages the rest. The trail begins in Shilshole Bay in Ballard and extends around the northern perimeter of Lake Union and the northwestern perimeter of Lake Washington, eventually meeting with the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell.
“We are working with the contractor to ensure that the project is completed quickly and the trail is reopened as soon as possible,” said Kevin Brown, King County Parks Director. “Closing the trail to all users is unavoidable, but the work will result in a better and safer trail.”
For more information on the King County Parks website, go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/capitalImprovements/parkscip/projects/burkegilmantrail/documents.aspx
Woodinville Patch editor Annie Archer contributed to this story.