The good news in King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers’ decision earlier today on the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “Missing Link” is quite simply this:
The link is going to go through. It may be sooner, it may be later. But the project essentially has been sanctioned.
In requiring an environmental review — and not, as several news reports mistakenly stated, a far more onerous environmental-impact statement — the judge basically told the city to get all the pipes clean before the water gets turned on. He wants the project to be airtight if the plaintiffs — a selfish collection of Ballard businesses and the unaccountably arbitrary Chamber of Commerce — decide to move ahead with an appeal.
The fact that no appeal was announced immediately, despite their losing on 8 of 9 (actually 9 of 9, the 9th just being postponed a bit) “counts,” indicates that the Chamber and small faction of the Ballard business community opposing the Link are getting the message. Their less-than-triumphant comments suggest they may finally be open to negotiation and compromise, should the City and Cascade Bicycle Club decide to pursue that path.
But first, it would help for Cascade to make its position clear on the Judge’s ruling. News reports had the Club both “feeling good” (Jeff Eustis, attorney for Cascade) and “really disappointed” (David Hiller, advocacy director for Cascade). Hey, this isn’t Rashomon. It’s either one or the other — or, from a practical standpoint, really neither. For cyclists, the decision doesn’t say victory or defeat — just OK, let’s push on.
Most of the “Link” can go ahead now, as Michael Snyder points out at SeattleLikesBikes. Let’s do it while the environmental assessment — which could take only a few weeks under an accelerated review process — is completed. The momentum of having all but a third of a mile done would increase pressure on the fringe business group in Ballard still opposed to the Link (far more businesses in Ballard support than oppose the project).
We’d argue that the decision actually does not change much (if the businesses appeal, they would have done so even if the Judge had given a complete green light; Cascade would have appealed an adverse ruling as well), and that all along what’s been needed is a greater sense of cooperation.
Why can’t Seattle ever get anything done? Why, when we leave town for six months and then return, are the pressing issues of the day exactly the same (viaduct, 520, Missing Link) as they were when we left, as are each and every one of the talking points?
It’s simply because there is no sense of higher purpose in Seattle, no real engagement in dialogue, and no willingness to budge on a position for the greater good of the public. There’s no roundtable. No real “town hall” (despite the city having a very nice building by that name).
Officials make decisions without consulting or reflecting constituencies, who then protest and sue. And so delays go on forever.
The Judge’s ruling is 8/9ths two-thumbs-up. While that last 1/9th gets ironed out, it’s time to git ‘er done.