Eastside rail corridor

Milepost 16, KirklandSometimes the wheels of progress turn slowly, but they do turn. This week the King County Council closed the loop on an idea that I first started gathering input on in the fall of 2005: how to preserve what would come to be known as the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) in public ownership for future generations to enjoy.

This past weekend, the importance of the corridor was brought home to me again when a friend and I spent several hours biking the Cedar River Trail – another former rail corridor. We rode to the Renton Airport, then took the trail upriver to the Maple Valley area. Along the way, we passed people walking, biking, and pushing their kids in strollers as they enjoyed the morning.

Some people had clearly driven to the trail to take a walk, while others stepped right out their back door to stroll with a cup of coffee and enjoy their neighbors.

The Cedar River Trail connects to the Eastside Rail Corridor and they both offer amazing views of wildlife, forests and precious wetlands. The ERC also runs through six major economic centers on the eastside of Lake Washington, almost like a string of pearls on a chain. By keeping the corridor in public ownership, we are keeping open the possibility that true multi-use transportation, trail and rail, may one day link those pearls.

This project exemplifies the work we try to do in the county; bringing communities together, making it easy for people to have healthier lifestyles, preserving green space and wetlands and providing alternative ways of commuting.

In the end, just one vote away from preserving this land, we all feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and look forward to the next journey.

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One response to “Eastside rail corridor

  1. Councilman Sims,

    I agree with your sentiments:

    “This project exemplifies the work we try to do in the county; bringing communities together, making it easy for people to have healthier lifestyles, preserving green space and wetlands and providing alternative ways of commuting.”

    A trail would be a wonderful asset to all the citizens of the eastside. The tracks run along gorgeous park areas, capture views of the greener, the lake and the city, and travel near wetlands. A trail would be a wonderful asset to all the citizens on the eastside. Imagine connecting to the Burke-Gilman Trail, The Sammamish River Trail, and heading all the way around the lake into Seattle. It’s an exciting prospect.

    Many of the communities you hope to unite will be broken apart if there is a train. In my neighborhood, The Kirkland Highlands, we will be cut off from all the other neighborhoods of Kirkland if this becomes a commuter rail line and not a trail. The neighborhood is surrounded by the BNSF railroad tracks and I-405. The neighborhood children all walk to the elementary and the junior high (from hundreds of homes) across the rail road tracks. I am concerned about teens who listen to IPods, talk on cell phones, and generally do not pay attention to their surroundings as they walk to school. More importantly, I am concerned about kids crossing the tracks if there is a train on the line during non-school hours. Kids will want and need to cross the tracks to see friends just a few streets away.

    Our neighborhood just cleared out an overgrown park as Kirkland’s Earth Day project. The train line crosses this park, which also has some wetlands right near the tracks.

    I understand the need for better transportation and welcome it. However, a train line here will break apart many neighborhoods in Kirkland and Bellevue. It will cut neighborhoods off from the lake. The line crosses many at-grade intersections, which would disrupt surface traffic, causing traffic to back up, creating traffic problems in the core areas and neighborhoods. The core areas would have slower traffic because these intersections would constantly be interrupted by a train during high commute times. Ironically, the people who live closest to work could potentially have longer commutes because of the traffic snarl created at these intersections, and there are many of these intersections.

    The BNSF train line is actually quite a beautiful scenic route because it has so many curves in the tracks. These curves slow trains down, and in fact do, up and down the tracks. The trains will not be able to do a reasonable commute in the morning because the trains must stay under 25 miles an hour. This will not save commuters time in their commute to work, decreasing the incentive to use the train at all.

    I welcome reasonable alternatives for a transit plan. Alternatives that make economic, ecological, safe, and reasonable sense.

    Using the BNSF line as a trail makes perfect sense, using the corridor as a commuter line does not.

    Councilman Sims, if you want to see the kids crossing to school, visit some of the beautiful sites along the line, check out the curves in the line, and see the impact of the at-grade crossings, please let our group know, http://www.eastsidetrailadvocates.org. We would be happy for you to see the impact of a train in real time.

    Also, we ask that the proper public process occur. There’s a private rail concern talking about trains on the line this coming fall, before all studies and public process is complete.

    Let’s preserve what we have at our doorstep and look for the best means, not just any means, to solve our transit problems.

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