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Burke-Gilman to get $19 million makeover

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The Burke-Gilman Trail is the most heavily used trail in Washington, with more than 500 cyclists and pedestrians using it each hour.

With even heavier trail usage projected due to the construction of a local Light Rail station near Husky Stadium, UW Transportation Services is renovating the 1.7 mile loop bordering the southern and eastern ends of campus. The project will cost approximately $19 million.

“This is such an important project,” said Josh Kavanagh, director of UW transportation. “I’m excited to move it forward.”

In the first phase of the project, the segment of the Burke-Gilman from 15th Ave NE to Rainier Vista will be renovated. The new trail will separate pedestrians and cyclists, and will feature enhanced markings, raised crosswalks, and improved signals. The old railroad trestle the trail runs over will also be improved.

Two local firms, Place and Alta Transportation Consulting, will collaborate on the project as well, with Place doing the primary redesign of the trail and Alta contributing extensive bicycle and pedestrian trail expertise. A contractor won’t be hired until fall, according to Kavanagh.

“One of the challenges is to create a sort of predictable rhythm,” Kavanagh said, “and make a fairly generous space from what’s now very congested.”

The first phase will also update bike parking facilities serving the Health Sciences building and widen the trail in anticipation of more traffic from the stadium light rail station.

“Once the station is in operation in 2016, there will be even more bikes and peds, and more bridges connecting from stadium to Burke-Gilman trail,” said Rebecca Barnes, one of the UW architects working on the project.

Increased access to bus stops and improvement of the side trails that join campus to the main path are other goals of the project. Beyond the first phase, the trail will be widened up to Pend Oreille Road and Northeast 47th Street with clearly designated separation of pedestrians and cyclists and a replacement of the Hec Ed bridge.

“A lot of design details have been planned to give people approaching the trail and people on the trail visual cues and other information,” Barnes said.

With safety being the primary concern, improvements in lighting will also be a part of the renovations.

“One of the things that we’ve been looking at is how the trail works within the context of the campus as a whole,” Barnes said. “It’s part of the overall integration of the campus of natural environment with built environment.”

Barnes said they’ll take care to preserve trees along the trail and increase spots for pedestrians and cyclists to rest.

“There’s a real understanding of the trail as a landscape feature on campus,” Kavanagh said.

Transportation Services will contribute 20 percent of the costs for the first phase, with the rest coming from a $3.25 million Federal Highway Administration. Transportation Services will fund a portion of the construction and all the design. The main source of transportation's funding is parking citation revenue, saved up over time.

“The next 30 years of parking fines are something we could issue bonds against,” Kavanagh said. “The money required for phase one is cash in hand.”

Demonstration treatments adjacent to Mercer Court Apartments will be completed in late May, and bids for phase one will begin in fall, with construction starting shortly thereafter.

“This project will really transform the Burke-Gilman,” Kavanagh said.

Reach reporter Garrett Black at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @GarrettJBlack

Corrections:
The bridge from the trail to Hitchcock will not be renovated; the old railroad trestle the trail runs over will be improved. The light rail station is under construction near Husky Stadium. The money for phase one comes from saved parking citation revenue and a Federal Highway Administration grant. Also, Mercer Hall is now entitled Mercer Court Apartments.

 

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