Press Release: June Washington State Superior Court Decision Changes Nothing for Long Term Outlook of Burke-Gilman Missing Link

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Paul Tolmé


June Washington State Superior Court Decision Changes Nothing for Long Term Outlook of Burke-Gilman Missing Link

Media Contact: 
Vicky Clarke, Policy Director
M. (360) 731-4467 
Press Release at a Glance:
  • Latest decision pertains to a procedural issue with Burke-Gilman Missing Link, specifically regarding which regulatory entity has the authority to grant or deny SDOT's request to move, by several feet, a small portion of rail right-of-way, along the Shilshole route, to make way for the trail. The ruling means that the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) will next take up that issue. The exact timing by which the STB will take up the issue is unknown; leading to delay of completion of the Missing Link along the preferred route, Shilshole. 

  • Trail alignment remains the same. The original Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) received over 4,500 public comments, of which 77 percent of the respondents supported building the Burke-Gilman Trail on the City’s preferred route.

  • The ruling does not pertain to the EIS, including the substance of the multi-year EIS. The City’s 2019 EIS addendum identifies no adverse economic impacts of trail upon nearby businesses.

  • Construction recently completed on Market Street is a multi-modal corridor project, including paving and transit improvements. 

  • Completion of the Missing Link is still anticipated by 2022, with some sections completed sooner, in 2021.

SEATTLE, Wash. July 16, 2020 – Cascade Bicycle Club releases the following statement on the Washington State Superior Court's June 25 Partial Summary Judgement Regarding Vacation of a Short Segment of Rail Right of Way Along Shilshole. 

The June 25 decision by the Washington Superior Court does not change the long term outlook, and ultimate fate of the Missing Link being completed along the Shilshole route. The procedural decision pertains to identifying which entity has authority to grant or deny the City of Seattle’s request to vacate a small portion of the existing rail right of way. The City wishes to move this segment of railroad several feet to accommodate the safe trail. This decision determined that the federal Surface Transportation Board must now make a decision. The result of this further delay is to perpetuate a hazardous traffic pattern on Shilshole Avenue that threatens the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

“Cascade remains committed to completing the Burke-Gilman Missing Link along the route that the majority of the community wants. We don't see this ruling as slowing down the project long-term, but it does mean another delay to the safety of vulnerable road users along the Missing Link,” said Vicky Clarke, Policy Director of Cascade Bicycle Club. “The choice of Shilshole Avenue NW as the route of the Missing Link has been affirmed as the most simple, safe and connected route. This evaluation is one that experts agree on, the community wants, and that we support for just those reasons.” 

Many, including Friends of the Burke-Gilman Trail, the Ballard Farmers Market, as well as a host of Ballard landowners and businesses stand together in a commitment to see a trail that is safe and predictable for everyone. During 2017 and 2018 thousands of caring neighbors and businesses weighed in on the EIS and subsequent design process saying they want to “Complete the Missing Link.” 

During the EIS comment process alone, 77 percent of the 4,500 respondents indicated a preference to locate along the preferred alternative, which runs along NW 45th St., Shilshole Ave. NW, and NW Market Street. 


For almost two decades, the process has been held up by a minority of deep-pocketed business owners located on a small section of Shilshole Ave. NW. These individuals have sought to delay the process through extensive legal action and then delay more. 

In 2009 and 2012, they demanded that the City conduct an EIS process. After a series of lengthy and costly appeals, the City agreed to draft a full EIS in 2013. Upon the EIS’ publication in May 2017, a small number of parties appealed the EIS. The City of Seattle hearing examiner affirmed the EIS in May 2018. Opponents again appealed on a scatter shot of grounds. Earlier this year, the City undertook and released an additional study of the potential economic impacts of traffic conflicts between trail users and trucks. The study confirmed that the final EIS did not overlook any significant economic impacts on the Shilshole businesses. With no remaining options for delay, the handful of opponents have filed successive motions related to the decision on procedural grounds.


“My family has lived and worked in the fishing industry in Ballard since the 1920s, and I live on the Burke-Gilman Trail next to the railroad tracks,” said commercial fisherman and Ballard business owner Jim Riggle. “The public safety improvements that will be made when the trail is completed will not just benefit trail users, they will benefit everyone, including those businesses, their drivers and their customers.”

The dangerous Shilshole corridor has suffered from a lack of safety improvements for decades. The results are conditions that from 2014 to 2016 resulted in an average of two Seattle Fire Department emergency responses each month, and untold additional unreported crashes and injuries (Missing Link EIS, Transportation Discipline Report, p. 4-38).

“In August 2014 I crashed on the Ballard Terminal Railroad tracks along the Missing Link and broke my wrist, which has resulted in multiple costly surgeries,” said Jessica Dickinson. “I’ve dealt with chronic pain for two years, and the ongoing care has cost me thousands of dollars out of my own pocket. The experience was traumatic and I avoid the Missing Link at all costs. I can’t understand why others oppose making the Missing Link safer.” 

This decision does nothing to change the outcome for this long overdue project. Mayor Durkan has overwhelming support from Ballard businesses and neighbors for this investment in the Ballard neighborhood that will improve freight mobility, safety and access for people walking and biking.


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