Burke-Gilman Trail's missing link needs review

SEATTLE - The missing link on the Burke Gilman Trail is still missing - and may stay that way for quite awhile after the decision of a hearing examiner this week.

He ruled that the city has to do a full environmental impact study before moving ahead with the trail - which could be a huge blow to bicyclists.

The missing link of the Burke-Gilman runs from east of the Ballard bridge to the Hiram Chittenden Locks. The city has had plans for years to complete this segment, but the trail just ends - dumping riders and runners out on the street.

"I don't feel safe cycling from here at all," says bicyclist Rachel Koller.

"Yeah, I'm surprised it's taken so long," agrees Ben Fleck.

The pushback comes from some local business owners who are fighting it, saying it would put cyclists and pedestrians in direct conflict with huge trucks and semis and not just threaten their safety, but the economic stability of the area.

"It's not really a missing link - it's a transportation corridor," says Warren Aakervik owner of Ballard Oil, where large trucks and semis would have to cross the trail to get their work done.

And without these businesses, he claims, the marine fisheries industry might go elsewhere, taking its money with it.

"It's about $2 billion a year in our local economy," he says. "This is part of your Growth Management Act; you're supposed to keep jobs and you're supposed to have an economic base coming into your community. And if you destroy that over a recreational trail to a heavy industrial area that supports the whole maritime industry, what have you done?"

The hearing examiner sided with business owners, saying the city must do a complete environmental impact study, which could be a lengthy process.

Warren says he's not against bicyclists - he just believes there's a safer place to build the trail other than along busy streets, loaded with commercial trucks.

Some cyclists agree.

"I honestly don't care where it's located as long as it's a separate safe trail," says Koller.

Seattle officials tell KOMO News they are reviewing their options to decide the appropriate next step.

The missing link of the Burke-Gilman Trail originally was supposed to be finished in 2010.