Burke-Gilman ruling: 18 of 19 ain’t good enough

We’ve been around and around more times than a wheel on a century ride and, while we seem to make progress with each revolution, we’re not there yet.

Yesterday, King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers issued a decision on the Burke-Gilman Trail “Missing Link.”  The decision—his second—is the latest in a series of lawsuits brought on by the Ballard Business Appellants.  We’d been eagerly awaiting a decision on the case so the City of Seattle can stop with all the legal defense (yes, some of that is your money!) and move forward to finally complete the necessary safety improvements on the Missing Link.

I sat there yesterday morning as Judge Rogers announced his decision from the bench, at first listening to some favorable news.  Technically, he ruled in favor of 18 of 19 conclusions of the Hearing Examiner.  But Judge Rogers ruled against conclusion #9 of the Hearing Examiner’s ruling, asserting that, despite already being at a 10 percent level of design as is usual under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), further design details from the City of Seattle are necessary.

Back we go.  And yes, we’ve been here before.  Completing the Missing Link has been planned by the City since it agreed to acquire the abandoned rail line right of way from Burlington Northern Santa Fe in 1989.  It’s been stalled by lawsuits and appeals since 2003, mainly by a handful of businesses opposed to the corridor safety improvements.

So where are we?  Is this just another turn of the crank or are we actually getting somewhere?  Once SDOT fills in some of the details that Judge Rogers is looking for—and shows that the project will not pose a significant impact to the environment—it’ll likely go back to the Hearing Examiner for a third go.  Then back to Judge Rogers, also for the third time.

We’re disappointed for several reasons.  First, that despite piles of evidence to the contrary, there are still pockets of attitudes that bicycling and industry are incompatible.  Also, that we might miss this summer’s construction season due to more legal wrangling.  And finally, that we may see yet more unnecessary injuries on the tracks and along the corridor as this gets figured out.

So be careful out there and help us finish this up.  Please consider a gift today to support the Burke-Gilman Legal Defense Fund so we can ride this one out together and get a safer trail built.