Innovation

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Technology & design innovation

The design of world-class walking and bicycling transportation corridors is a nascent discipline in the United States. The BGC will establish a new archetype after which future urban trails will be modeled nationwide.

  • The combination of vertical and horizontal separation between pedestrian and bicycle paths represents an elegant design innovation that improves traffic flow, minimizes collision risk and creates a level of user safety, comfort and enjoyment that is not possible on traditional mixed-use transportation trails.

  • The implementation of mixing zones that utilize visual and tactile cues, as well as speed tables that passively calm bicycle speeds at intersections, also represent cutting-edge treatments for pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities.

  • Signal enhancements and grade separation at major arterials – including separate trail signal phases and a daylit trail undercrossing – are treatments at the forefront of trail design best practices.

These design innovations will be coupled with unprecedented in-depth research into trail usage.

  • In partnership with Rails to Trails Conservancy, University of Minnesota and UW, researchers will deploy a series of pedestrian and bicycle infrared and inductive loop sensors pre- and post-construction.
  • Over a 12-month study period, data collected along the BGC will be used to develop predictive demand models for trail usage nationwide, taking into account seasonality, weekly traffic patterns, and adjacent demographics and land uses.

This forecasting tool based on rigorous data collection, will allow engineers, planners and other decision-makers across the nation to locate, design and build trails to optimize performance and maximize return on trail investments.

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The BGC’s innovative combination of vertical and horizontal separation between pedestrian and bike paths, improves traffic flow, minimizes collisions and creates user safety, comfort and enjoyment. Mixing zones will use visual and tactile clues to calm bicycle speeds at intersections. Landing areas allow pedestrians to pause and look for conflicts before crossing the line of travel.

The BGMC also integrates cutting-edge technology that will improve the capacity and performance of future trails. Through a partnership with the Rails to Trails Conservancy and other private, institutional and academic partners, the BGMC will serve as an important research and academic innovation model. University of Minnesota and UW researchers will deploy a series of pedestrian and bicycle infrared and inductive loop sensors pre- and post-construction. Over a 12-month study period, data collected along the BGMC will be used to develop predictive demand models for trail usage nationwide, taking into account seasonality, weekly traffic patterns, and adjacent demographics and land uses. A forecasting tool based on rigorous data collection and uniquely tailored to walking and biking trails will have many benefits. Chief among them, it will allow engineers, planners and other decision makers to locate, design and build trails to optimize performance. This will help to ensure maximum return on trail investments.


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With this project, the UW is once again taking an extraordinary leadership position. The suite of innovative treatments they will demonstrate will show our industry how to effectively reconcile the conflicts inherent in the high volumes of both bicycles and pedestrians and the complex web of desire lines in a campus environment. We expect this project to become a new national model for urban, mixed-use trails. We are excited by the example this sets and expect that it will spur other communities and universities to collaborate on a regional scale.”

— Transportation leaders from 38 universities and colleges


Finally, the BGMC will establish a new archetype after which future urban trails in the United States will be modeled. The combination of vertical and horizontal separation between pedestrian and bicycle paths represents an elegant design innovation that improves traffic flow, minimizes collision risk and creates a level of user safety, comfort and enjoyment that simply is not possible on traditional mixed-use transportation trails. The implementation of mixing zones that utilize visual and tactile cues, as well as speed tables that passively calm bicycle speeds at intersections, also represent cutting-edge treatments for pedestrian and bicycle transportation facilities. Similarly, signal enhancements and grade separation at major arterials – including separate trail signal phases and a daylit trail undercrossing – are treatments at the forefront of trail design best practices.

Funding & financing innovation

The BGC taps transportation infrastructure investment from a nontraditional source, the University of Washington, for a regional transportation asset – freeing regional transportation dollars for other projects. Additionally, the UW is tapping a non-traditional revenue stream (parking fine revenue) to fund trail redevelopment and another non-traditional revenue stream (utility easements) for operations and maintenance.

The BGC has assembled a financing package that speaks to the diversity and support of its funding partners, including financial and in-kind contributions from the Puget Sound Regional Council, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Seattle Children’s Hospital, City of Seattle and King County Metro. By utilizing innovative funding approaches, the BGC is superbly positioned to maximize a TIGER 2014 award as the last-dollar-in on the project’s financing package.

Management innovation

The BGC leverages mode separation as an innovative congestion management and safety strategy. Innovative intersection treatments with generous mixing zones that use visual and tactile cues to manage speeds and traveler behavior further improve safety. The BGC also adopts an innovative asset management strategy, employing new root barrier technology developed on-site at the UW.

Coordinated investments increase impact

Not only would a TIGER 2014 award serve as last-dollar-in on the BGC, it would also serve the regionally significant function of expediting the project’s completion. The new University of Washington Link light rail station opens in 2016 and other major adjacent projects will be completed in a similar time frame, such as the new SR 520 multi-use trail and construction of 2,500 new housing units within one block of the BGC. The success of these projects depends greatly on a functioning trail and expediting the BGC would provide just that.

A closely related benefit of expediting the project’s completion is consolidating construction, detours and other impacts to trail users into a single window of time. The UW is poised to begin construction on Phase One of the BGC (15th Ave NE to Rainier Vista East, funded through CMAQ and the UW) in May 2014. A TIGER 2014 award would allow this piece and all remaining segments of the BGC to be constructed as rolling phases and completed before the opening of light rail in 2016. However, absent a TIGER 2014 award, construction will proceed in discrete segments of work as funds are secured. That will result in additional mobilization costs, and require numerous detours – extending disruption of a vital transportation corridor and pushing project completion well out beyond the opening of light rail.

In 2013, the PLACE design studio received a Merit Award from the Oregon Chapter of the prestigious American Society of Landscape Architiects (ASLA) for analysis and planning for this project