Smooth bike-riding on newly renovated Burke Gilman Trail section

News that the 8-month renovation of a 2-mile section of the Burke-Gilman Trail reopened at noon on Friday sent me out on my bicycle this weekend to enjoy the fresh pavement.

The smooth riding was enjoyable, but I wasn't prepared for the trail's transformation from a narrow path to a bicycling superhighway.

Comparing two photos here of the Burke Gilman Trail crossing at 147th Street, it's hard to believe they were taken at the same location. The photo below was grabbed from trailviews at; I shot the one above on Sunday afternoon.

Changes like that are evident throughout the entire stretch from Log Boom Park to 145th Street.

This 2-mile section of the 18-mile Burke Gilman Trail — honored in the Rail to Trail Conservancy's Hall of Fame — is among the oldest and narrowest of  the 33-year-old trail.

The photo below shows some of the major changes.

The trail surface is improved, and the trail itself has been widened to 12 feet with gravel shoulder. There's plenty of room here for a bicyclist and pedestrians, with extra space for the dogs walking on the shoulder. It looks like you could even throw in a couple moms pushing strollers.

The trail has been straightened, and many trailside trees and bushes have been removed to improve sightlines. Steep hillsides were graded to address landslides and erosion, and drainage systems were installed.

The county removed the many stop signs installed at every private driveway through this stretch and replaced them with more appropriate yield signs.

The Cascade Bicycle Club had advocated for the removal of those stop signs at private driveways in Lake Forest Park for years. Although cyclists largely ignored them, police occasionally showed up with their ticket books.

Work crews improved bridge crossings, including replacement of Lyons Creek Bridge. Benches were installed in several locations. New lighting was installed at trail intersections.

King County launched the long-awaited project in June. Because of the tight working conditions on the trail, it was closed to bicycles and pedestrians. The some 1,300 daily trail users were left to take a detour; the “approved” detour included a big climb and many bicyclists found alternatives during the construction.

The project suffered from cost overruns and delays due to unexpected problems with landscaping and underground utilities. The unforeseen problems caused the costs to rise from $2.7 million to $4.9 million, the Seattle Times reported last year.

Half the upgrade opened in December, but the final section wasn't opened until noon on Friday.

Although those detours and delays caused some grumbling, that's all behind us now and we're left with a greatly improved trail.

You can see the difference at the end of the renovated section above near 145th Street, where the trail narrows and the shoulder disappears on the old Burke Gilman in the background.

King County says it's planning a ribbon cutting later this spring.

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