Enhancements for a Burke-Gilman Trail Crossing

In news that will be appreciated by cyclists, SDOT and the Ballard Terminal Railroad are moving forward with enhancement work on a Burke-Gilman Trail crossing. 

The Burke-Gilman Trail intersects railroad tracks belonging to the Ballard Terminal Railroad at a crossing to the north and east of 6th Avenue NW and NW 40th Street. The trail bends towards 6th Avenue NW at this point and meets the train tracks at a 45 degree angle.

Where the track and trail meet, there is a rubber mat material installed between the trail pavement and the track rails, and the rails themselves. The mat was apparently put in to narrow the flange gap near the track so that cyclists would not catch their tires in the gap. However, cyclists are reporting that this mat can be slippery, particularly during wet and freezing conditions. 

As the Ballard Terminal Railroad is responsible for crossings of its tracks, SDOT is partnering with the railroad to realign the crossing. We will jointly remove the mat material and realign the crossing so that it is closer to 90 degrees. The new crossing will be made of asphalt to enhance traction in adverse weather. The enhancements should be installed in July.

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    • pegNielsen says

      Thank you for your comment. The Bicycle and Pedestrian progam section says they’ll check it out as soon as we have a heavy rain. Because this will require help from Mother Nature and then assessment by our engineers, it may take a while before we are able to respond back to you. Please allow us at least 7-10 business/working days, or possibly more, before expecting to receive our answer. Thanks for your patience.

  1. Morgan says

    Why is the track not just removed at this section? It does not appear that the this portion of track is even in a usable condition for the Ballard Terminal Railroad. The track already terminates 100 feet or so to the south east of this location.

    • pegNielsen says

      Although the track is lightly used, it is still an active railroad crossing for the Ballard Terminal Railroad, so the tracks cannot be dismantled.

  2. Andreas says

    The only problem I can see with the new orientation is that the two consecutive right-angle turns will virtually encourage users to cut corners, putting them into the path of oncoming traffic.

    A pretty much identical intersection exists—for vehicles, not bikes—a few blocks away at 43rd & 8th. SDOT recently added center-line striping to that intersection to remind drivers to stay in their lane through the turns.

    Will SDOT please consider adding similar striping to this crossing when completed, perhaps along with signage like “Stay In Lane – Reduce Speed”? Otherwise I worry we’ll be eliminating solo bike crashes but gaining bike-on-bike accidents, and that doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff to me.

    • pegNielsen says

      The crossing improvements were designed to both remove the rubberized apron on the railroad crossing approach and to encourage bicyclists to make as close to a 90 degree crossing at the tracks as possible. The intent was to provide greater traction, and for users of the Burke-Gilman Trail to more easily navigate the railroad crossing. As bicyclists adjust to the new alignment, additional signage may prove helpful, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) monitors roads and crossings for such needs. However, SDOT would rather keep as few obstacles near bicycle paths as possible, so such signage is not typically installed preemptively.

      • Andreas says

        So SDOT considers warning signage and lane striping “obstacles”? Is that why SDOT refused to put warning signs up around the SLU streetcar until after several cyclists had crashed and the City was facing a lawsuit?

        Waiting until after someone is injured or killed to put in basic signage and lane striping is incredibly irresponsible and very disappointing. These are not obstacles, they are basic trail/roadway facilities and they should be installed from the get-go.

      • SDOT Blog says

        You should also know that SDOT will install a solid line through the crossing area to clearly indicate the travel lanes for each direction.

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