I did not care about the debate surrounding a proposed new arena in Sodo—until now. The Port of Seattle has decided to hold hostage a completely unrelated project that could revolutionize travel in Kirkland and the eastside by providing a 5.75-mile family-friendly biking and walking trail along the Eastside Rail Corridor (13 miles total).
Now, I’m not a PR expert or anything, but I can’t imagine it’s a good idea for an industry behemoth to say, “Families and commuters of Kirkland, You cannot have your already-approved safe biking and walking trail until King County crushes your dreams of getting an NBA team due to our concerns about bad traffic miles away from where you live” (paraphrase).
And I also can’t imagine holding a biking and walking trail hostage is a very good way to “become the cleanest, greenest, most energy efficient port in the nation.” Or maybe they weren’t actually being serious when they said that.
How excited are people for this trail? Well, one Kirkland man built a rail-bike by hand to encourage people to imagine new uses for the space. Inventive, hopeful people like John Eineigl and his fellow residents don’t deserve to be jerked around because the Port is mad about something else across town.
I hope the Port Commissioners come to their senses that this was a silly move. The Port was already a dominant voice in the arena debates (they are quoted in just about every story I’ve read recently), and they really didn’t need to bring this unrelated and popular trail plan into it. If they thought the stunt was going to get their traffic concerns more attention, they seriously misread the situation. This feels childish and will make them more enemies than allies.
The Port of Seattle Commission voted 3-2 to delay the last piece of the deal: transferring 13 miles of an old BNSF Railway corridor to King County. Commissioners cited “issues of trust” with the county as it moves toward a new arena near the Port’s crucial industrial area.
“I’m just concerned about this arena proposal that the Port’s interests are not being properly taken into account, and it’s going way too fast,” Port Commissioner John Creighton said at last Tuesday’s Port Commission meeting. “Before we can cooperate with the county on a number of issues we really need to understand, how are we going to deal with it?”
The vote raises the temperature on a debate between the Port and the Seattle and King County councils, which are to vote this summer on putting public money toward the arena.
Port staff and commissioners have written letters expressing concern. Now, by delaying the rail-corridor vote, they are threatening to withhold something the county wants.