State of Good Repair
Failing physical conditions
The Burke-Gilman Trail’s asphalt edges are unraveling and the presence of root heaves, overgrown and invasive vegetation, blind intersections and conflicts between modes have made travelling on the trail treacherous, particularly during peak commute periods when over 460 peak hour pedestrians and 500 peak hour bicyclists (7,000 total daily users) travel along and across the trail. Since 2009, the University of Washington (UW) has invested nearly $250,000 in maintenance and repairs. Despite fixes to maintain a functioning corridor, the trail continues to deteriorate and demands more comprehensive rehabilitation.
The Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector (BGMC) will increase transportation resiliency by giving commuters a low cost, reliable means of accessing employment destinations, light rail and other transit connections. The BGMC is supported by the UW’s existing Campus Master Plan and the City’s Bicycle Master Plan and Pedestrian Master Plan, which call for building high-quality pedestrian and bicycle facilities and maintaining them in a state of good repair. These documents direct the UW to maintain a network of campus pedestrian and bicycle paths and improve ADA accessibility as a condition of development; maintain adequate pathways for unimpeded passage during peak pedestrian volumes; improve the quality and quantity of bicycle facilities; and, accommodate pedestrian circulation needs resulting from increases in transit.
A 2011 performance analysis using the FHWA Shared Use Path Level of Service calculator found that the trail currently operates at levels of service E and F.
E: Very poor.
Given trail width, volume and user mix, the trail has reached its functional capacity. Peak period travel speeds are likely reduced by levels of crowding. The trail may enjoy strong community support because of its high usage rate; however, many bicyclists are likely to adjust their experience expectations, or avoid peak period use.
Trail significantly diminishes the experience for at least one and most likely for all user groups. It does not effectively serve most bicyclists; significant user conflicts should be expected.
The sheer volume of pedestrians and bicyclists creates a bottleneck at key points along the trail, leading to travel time delays and a decrease in the quality of experience for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit operations on intersecting arterials (Brooklyn Ave NE, University Way NE, 15th Ave NE, and NE Pend Oreille Road). Due to poor intersection design, collisions between pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers are common at these locations.
Future growth in trail use associated with the trail-adjacent SR 520 multi-use path, Link light rail stations (2016 and 2020) and 2,500 new UW housing beds (2015) is projected to further degrade the trail’s transportation function.
If left unimproved while demand for the trail’s transportation services continues to grow, the trail will further deteriorate, creating additional maintenance backlogs and compounding the costs of maintenance and repair. Without improvements users will continue to experience travel time delays, particularly during peak commute periods when light rail passengers flood onto the trail at seven to eight minute headways. When all expansion programs are completed, light rail trains will arrive every six minutes for up to 20 hours each day.The resulting delay is projected to be 37,941 hours each year, amounting to $7,511,002 (7% discount rate) or $4,162,947 (3% discount rate) in total cost-equivalent losses over 20 years. The added congestion and crossing movements will also lead to an increased number of collisions along and across the trail.
The deteriorating condition of the trail combined with increased usage by both pedestrians and bicyclists contribute to the growing risk of collisions between transit vehicles and trail users.”
— Neal Safrin, Vice President, ATU Local 587
The poor condition of the trail threatens the continued smooth functioning of the UW, a critical economic growth engine in this region. Eighty-six percent of students and 50 percent of employees commute on foot, bike or by transit, many of whom use the trail every day. Providing world-class walking, biking and transit facilities is, quite literally, how the UW attracts the world’s top student and employee talent. If the region’s primary walking and bicycling transportation facility continues to spiral into further disrepair, the UW will struggle to attract top talent.
New capacity and longevity
The BGMC will eliminate deficiencies and maintain the trail in a state of good repair. Widening the trail will ensure that it continues to function as an effective transportation corridor well into the 2030s by which time bicycle traffic on the trail will have increased 238% and pedestrian traffic will have increased 92%. Separating the trail into dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facilities will minimize conflicts between the modes, creating infrastructure that is safe, comfortable and convenient to use and encouraging more commuters to travel by foot, bike and transit.
Replacing the aging and deteriorating asphalt trail with an asphalt bicycle trail and a separate concrete pedestrian trail will lengthen the path’s useful lifespan and integrate more durable surface and subgrade materials. At intersections with arterials, improving sightlines, optimizing signal timing, narrowing crossing distances, implementing grade separation, and reassessing right-of-way assignments will reduce the risk of collisions between pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, ensuring the BGMC meets the transportation needs of people of all ages, abilities and modes.
With Tiger V providing the last-dollar-in, the BGMC is fully funded. As a self-supported auxiliary, UW Transportation Services has sufficient annual funds from parking citations revenue to finance the UW local match and provide a sustainable funding source for ongoing maintenance expenses. Moreover, the UW has granted multiple easements permitting the routing of utilities in the trail corridor. The majority of these agreements will be renewed in the next two years, and the UW will use payments received in association with those easements to establish a trust for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the BGMC. Maintenance and repairs of the trail will be performed largely in-house by UW Facilities Services.
I think we need to make it bigger, safer and take out all the tree root bumps. Do that, and more people will use it than ever, which is good for everyone!”
— Andy Strickland