The Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector (BGC) in Seattle WA, will provide a critical connection between economically distressed areas throughout the Sound Transit Link light rail corridor and educational and economic opportunity. The BGC will transform 1.7 miles of one of our nation’s most treasured and heavily used urban trails from its current failing state (Shared-Use Path Level of Service, or SUPLOS E/F) into a national model that demonstrates how:
- Active transportation infrastructure is uniquely capable of serving as a Ladder of Opportunity by providing low-cost or no-cost connections to education and training, employment, and social services.
- Communities can leverage non-traditional transportation funding sources, such as universities, in funding and constructing regional transportation infrastructure.
- Active first and last mile connections can expand the effective reach of light rail and bus transit networks while mitigating neighborhood impacts at the end of the line.
- Engineering solutions, such as grade and mode separation can radically increase safety, capacity, and flow in active transportation corridors.
- Innovative design can use a consistent language of visual and tactile cues to regulate behavior without signage or traditional traffic controls.
USA Today describes the Burke-Gilman as “a bike-obsessed city’s pride – and as far as urban bike paths go, arguably the nation’s [pride] … One of the most heavily ridden multi-use paths in the country … [and] the ‘backbone’ of Seattle’s cycling infrastructure.” This backbone strains under a heavy load and will soon break, as trail traffic more than doubles with the addition of the SR 520 multi-use path and the opening of Link light rail’s interim terminus adjacent to the UW campus and the most congested part of the trail.
This project not only will ensure critical non-motorized connections to the soon-to-open light rail station are in place, but further the University District as a regional destination and economic center.”
— Joni Earl, Sound Transit
TIGER funding represents the last-dollar-in and the last opportunity to complete the full corridor in time for the opening of Link light rail in 2016. If we miss this opportunity, severe congestion on the Burke-Gilman will limit the ability of both Link light rail and the adjacent SR 520 Bridge Replacement project to deliver on their full potential. This modest additional investment unlocks that potential and ensures that the public receives the best possible value from the regional and federal investment in these megaprojects.
The BGC will be used by workers of all income levels, students and seniors, providing safe and economical transportation options for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. By serving projected bicycle and pedestrian transportation demand, the BGC will help optimize transportation efficiency and support economic competitiveness, provide dependable access to jobs, improve public health, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on foreign oil, and enhance community livability.
The University of Washington is planning for the region’s active transportation future. We hope you will look through our studies, plans and our TIGER 2014 application and consider adding your name to the public list of supporters.
In 2010, University of Washington Transportation Services began a major study of the section of the Burke-Gilman Trail that runs through campus. Through this study, our department confirmed that the existing trail fails to meet current demand and that trail conditions will deteriorate over time - particularly with increased demand from the recently-renovated Husky Stadium and the brand new Sound Transit Link light rail station scheduled to open adjacent to the trail in early 2016.
View a copy of our study conducted in conjunction with SVR Design Company and Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants.
In 2012, Transportation Services began work with Place Studio and ALTA Planning and Design, which ultimately ended with a concept plan for the entire trail. The goals of the concept plan included:
- • create a safe trail alignment that minimizes conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles
- • clarify and organize trail connections
- • develop a consistent trail rhythm and character
- • create a front door / public face for the university
- • reconcile regional use with campus landscape
- • make the BGT a place, not just a conduit
- • develop a comprehensive trail design which can be built out in phases
Following on the work of the Burke-Gilman Trail concept plan, in winter 2012 our department applied for a grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program. We won a grant for a first phase of construction — 15th Avenue Northeast up to the Montlake Triangle — and our department began work with Place and ALTA on more specific design and construction documents. Funding for this segment of the trail was obligated in September 2013 and the project is scheduled to go to bid in early 2014. Construction on this segment begins in Spring 2014.
For more information about current construction and detours on the trail, please visit our projects, construction and detours site.
The PSRC CMAQ funds cover the section of the trail running from 15th Avenue Northeast up to the Montlake Triangle. The University of Washington, WSDOT, SDOT and Sound Transit are working together on the Montlake Triangle project, which will drastically change the Burke-Gilman Trail and connections to the triangle, Pacific Place Northeast and the Link Light Rail station. More information about this project can be found on the UW Capital Projects Office website.
In spring 2013, UW Transportation Services, in conjunction with UW Housing and Food Services, renovated a small portion of the Burke-Gilman Trail just north of the Mercer Court Apartments while those apartments were under construction. This small section serves as a demonstration of the treatments that will be applied to the rest of the UW-owned portion of the trail. It also serves as a test phase for how well (or not well) these treatments work and offers an opportunity for the community to provide feedback before the treatments are rolled out across campus.
The Mercer Court section has provided valuable feedback to our department, and in January 2014 we began another demonstration next to the Mercer Court Apartments testing constructability and different materials.
On April 22, 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its solicitation for applications for the fifth round of TIGER, and the University of Washington submitted an application for the Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector. In September 2013, we received the disappointing news that our project did not receive USDOT TIGER V funding. The BGMC came very close to finishing “in the money” with USDOT continuing to ask clarifying questions as near as a week before decisions were made.
The Hec-Ed Bridge
In September 2013, our department, alongside WSDOT and SDOT, applied for another grant from the PSRC, this time for a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant to study and design a replacement for the Hec-Ed Bridge. Although the Hec-Ed Bridge connects to the Burke-Gilman Trail and serves as a vital connection to resources east of Montlake, it remained outside the scope of the Burke-Gilman Trail project. The bridge-replacement project fits within our department’s commitment to providing quality bicycle and pedestrian facilities. You can find out more about the Hec-Ed Bridge at its project page.
Our department is keeping a keen eye on potential partnerships and grant competitions locally, regionally and nationwide, and is applying for 2014 USDOT TIGER discretionary grant funds, as well as PSRC’s regional CMAQ grant competition. Unless the BGMC is constructed and operating before the University of Washington Link light rail station opens in 2016, the severe congestion on this facility will have a negative impact on full realization of the potential use of the SR 520 multi-use path and Link light rail.