An aerial photo of the South Park Bridge under construction with the Duwamish Valley in the background.
The South Park Bridge almost wasn't rebuilt until the community fought back. A bike/ped trail would make that connection truly multimodal. (Photo by Ned Ahrens / King County)

Budget Chair Teresa Mosqueda released her rebalancing package for the 2021 budget this week with $83 million in changes to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s budget proposal. The Move All Seattle Sustainably (MASS) Coalition’s transportation package made it in, including even more money than requested for the Georgetown-to-South Park Trail, fully funding it through construction.

The Georgetown-to-South Park Trail has long been a priority for Duwamish Valley advocates and bike and pedestrian activists citywide. The trail fills a big hole in the city’s network of safe biking and pedestrian facilities. In 2017, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets advocate Jamie Sharrick made the case for the trail in The Urbanist. Mayor Durkan’s 2018 Duwamish Valley Action Plan promised to design the trail and come up with a funding plan to built it, but the second half never materialized in her subsequent budgets. Thankfully, Duwamish Valley Safe Streets and their allies kept pressing the case, and the Seattle City Council allocated the funding to make it a reality this time around.

“The Georgetown to South Park Trail will provide a safe, accessible, and climate friendly walking/biking path along E. Marginal Way. Connecting people to schools, medical facilities, employers, businesses, a public library, and most importantly each other,” said Peaches Thomas, lead organizer for Duwamish Valley Safe Streets, in a statement. The group recently released video that compellingly made this argument through the stories of Georgetown and South Park residents.

While the Mayor cut $1.8 million in Georgetown-to-South Park funding in her proposal, the Council added back and then some, allocating $5.2 million in Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenue. SDOT said this will be enough to build the project when paired with a $1.6 million Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) grant for which it has applied. The agency estimates the project will cost between $6 million and $7 million.

South Seattle Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Tammy Morales led the charge in amending the budget to fund the trail.

“Duwamish Valley Safe Streets would like to thank Councilmembers Herbold and Morales for all their help and support for preserving the funding for this important community-based project,” Thomas said. “None of this could have been accomplished without the advocacy efforts of the Duwamish Valley community members in partnership with bicycle and pedestrian advocates from around the city. Together we can build a stronger, united, and healthier Duwamish Valley!”

The route for the Georgetown-to-South Park trail. (SDOT)

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) partnered with Duwamish Valley Safe Streets to do outreach. They gathered input from 400 community members and found strong support. SDOT sought feedback on a route that includes a multi-use separated trail on Marginal Way S and Ellis Avenue.

“We received six letters of support from local community groups for the connection and four of the letters (from the Georgetown South Park Trail Community Advisory Group, Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition Technical Advisory Group, South Park Neighborhood Association, and the Georgetown Community Council shared the following preference,” SDOT noted in its outreach report. That preference is:

  • Georgetown Connection: A walking/biking path on Ellis Avenue S, S Albro Place, and 13th Avenue S
  • E Marginal Way S Connection: A walking/biking path or two-way protected bike lane on the north side of E Marginal Way S
  • South Park Connection: Oneway protected bike lanes on both sides of 16th Avenue S leading to the South Park Bridge

SDOT is planning its trail design based on those preferences.

Bike advocates have been seeking to close these gaps in the safe biking network for year. (Cascade Bicycle Club)

Once completed Georgetown-to-South Park Trail will close a major gap in Seattle’s basic bike network, connecting the two sides of the Duwamish River at another point. As you can see in Cascade Bicycle Club’s network map above, the trail when paired with the Georgetown-to-Downtown route ties the Duwamish Valley into the citywide bike network. Track progress on the trail at the project website. The Council’s budget also funds Georgetown-to-Downtown bike route planning as requested by Duwamish Valley Safe Street and the MASS Coalition.

Once planned, the Georgetown-to-Downtown bike route would need to secure construction funding in a future budget. Like the Georgetown-to-South Park Trail, such a route would be a big help in mitigating the closure of the West Seattle Bridge so hopefully SDOT and the Council can act quickly. Detours have dumped even more traffic and congestion into the Duwamish Valley, worsening already considerable health impacts from pollution.

The featured image of the South Park Bridge is by Ned Ahrens and is courtesy of King County.

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.