Innovation

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By utilizing innovative funding approaches, the Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector (BGMC) is uniquely positioned to maximize a TIGER V award as the last-dollar-in on the project’s financing package. The BGMC 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, Seattle City Light, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Seattle Children’s Hospital, City of Seattle and King County Metro.

Not only would a TIGER V award serve as last-dollar-in on the BGMC, it would also serve the regionally significant function of expediting the project’s completion. A new SR 520 multi-use trail is planned, the University of Washington (UW) completes construction on 2,500 new housing beds in 2015, and the new University of Washington light rail station opens in 2016. The success of these projects depends greatly on a functioning trail and expediting the BGMC 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 a segment of the trail (15th Ave NE to Rainier Vista East, funded through CMAQ and the UW) in December 2013. A TIGER V award would allow this piece and all remaining segments of the BGMC to be constructed simultaneously and completed by 2015. Absent a TIGER V award, however, construction will proceed in a phased approach that will result in additional contracting and 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.

Fremont bridge bike counter
Counters on the trail will provide valuable data about how trail improvements relate to trail usage. (Photo credit: Montlaker Blog)

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.

Mercer Apartments new trail segment
The demonstration zone outside of the new Mercer Court Apartments shows how the rest of the trail will look after the project is completed.

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.