Kirkland is about to get a new rail-trail.
We reported just days ago about ongoing discussions of the entire Eastside Rail Corridor. In fact, we suggested that it could even someday rival Seattle Burke-Gilman Trail as the top trail in the region.
Well, get ready for a taste of the trail’s power. The City of Kirkland, which owns the portion of corridor through their city limits, has just received the go-ahead to tear out the tracks, creating a gravelly but likely bikeable trail through the city.
As with a failed 1970s attempt to reactivate the rail line as a way of blocking that now beloved Burke-Gilman Trail, the Ballard Terminal Railroad filed a legal action to block Kirkland from removing the tracks and creating a trail through its heart.
But the Surface Transportation Board denied their request yesterday, giving Kirkland the green light to move ahead with their plans for an interim crushed gravel trail.
The city is also in the process of developing a master plan for the trail corridor, which will likely include a high-quality paved trail. You can learn more from the project website and this master plan PDF fact sheet. Here’s a projected timeline for that plan:
The Surface Transportation Board denied on Aug. 1 the request by Ballard Terminal Railroad Company to block rail removal along the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
“We are delighted in and grateful for this decision,” said Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett. “We were confident in the merits of our case. And we are appreciative that the Surface Transportation Board recognized those merits.”
The City has already contacted the rail removal contractor to begin removing the rails in the near future. The rail bed, however, will remain in place.
In its seven-page decision, the Surface Transportation Board said the harm to the public interest of leaving the tracks in place outweighed Ballard Terminal’s reasons for keeping them there.
“Ballard’s request for an injunction will be denied,” the board wrote. “Ballard has failed to demonstrate, based on the current record, that it will likely succeed on the merits because it appears to have insufficient financial resources and there is insufficient evidence of current shipper need. Given this weak showing, any harm to Ballard resulting from its inability to pay for or recover the cost of installing track is insufficient to warrant an injunction.”
Ballard Terminal filed a motion in April with the Surface Transportation Board to reactivate the rail line. The following month, it requested injunctive relief, which resulted in Kirkland suspending its contract with A & K Railroad Materials, Inc. to begin rail removal.
Matt Cohen and Hunter Ferguson of Stoel Rives represented the City of Kirkland before the Surface Transportation Board.