At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen unveiled a plan to complete the so-called "missing link" of bike and pedestrian pathway along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Ballard.

The plan is really to draft another environmental impact study (exciting!) but it also represents an important step to moving forward in what has become a decade-plus-long court battle between businesses in the area, trail users, and the Seattle Department of Transportation.

“We are eager to complete the Missing Link, and conducting a full EIS is the best way to break the legal log jam on this project,” said McGinn in a statement. “We are also moving ahead on safety improvements on the street that can be implemented quickly to help everyone share the road.”

“I am confident that with careful planning both bicyclists and freight and industrial traffic will be able to co-exist successfully in Ballard,” added Rasmussen, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

The trail is currently nonexistent between 11th Avenue NW and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard, creating an area that is well documented as the highest bicycle collisions in the city.

In 2003 the City Council adopted a plan to close the missing link along the Shilshole alignment but opponents sued to stop construction. In 2008, the City conducted another environmental review of the area that was limited in scope, but it was once again tied up in court. Now the city is committing to a full, comprehensive EIS in 2013 to expedite the court challenges.

Meanwhile, city officials are also taking on a number of bike and pedestrian traffic improvements in the area where the trail project is proposed. SDOT has prepared specific recommended improvements that will be constructed over the next two years, including:

• Adding advisory bicycle lanes on NW 45th Street and other safety improvements.
• Installing striping and signage to create a traffic island and a 4-way stop at Ballard Avenue NW and 17th Avenue NW, and again at NW 48th Street and Ballard Avenue NW.
• Shoulder maintenance and replacement along Shilshole Avenue NW.
• Installing a curb ramp to allow bicycles access to the sidewalk to queue for the existing bike lane headed north on 24th Avenue NW at the intersection of Shilshole Avenue NW/24th Avenue NW and NW Market Street.

SDOT notes that these improvements are independent from the proposed trail project and will be coordinated with input from bike riders and the freight community.