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Kirkland may purchase 5.75-mile rail corridor, build new trail

Used with permission.

UPDATE: The Kirkland Council approved the deal, Biking Bis reports.

Original story:

The City of Kirkland will consider the purchase of 5.75 miles of a rail corridor through the city. One likely use for the corridor would be a new trail and perhaps even some transit.

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The discussion comes days after Bradley Nakatani was struck and killed by an impaired driver while biking in the Totem Lake area of Kirkland, just a block and a half from the rail corridor under consideration.

According to the Kirkland Reporter, a detailed study session will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, and the Kirkland City Council will consider the sale at their 7:30 p.m. meeting. Both meetings will be held at Kirkland City Hall (123 5th Avenue). You can also watch the meetings live online.

More details from the Seattle Times:

The City Council is scheduled to decide Monday whether to pay $5 million for the portion of the Eastside Rail Corridor that starts not far from Highway 520 and connects with the Totem Lake area of Kirkland.

If the council approves the deal, Kirkland would buy the abandoned rail line from the Port of Seattle, which two years ago purchased BNSF Railway’s full 42-mile corridor connecting Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville, Redmond and Snohomish.

“It’s very exciting. It’s something that I’ve been involved in and listened to the conversations about for over 20 years,” Mayor Joan McBride said.

The city’s purchase of the corridor would initially be funded by $1 million from surface-water utility funds and a $4 million loan from utility-capital reserves. The loan could be repaid from park funds, nonmotorized-transportation money, real-estate excise-tax proceeds and other sources.

UPDATE: Adam Parast at Seattle Transit Blog has more on the corridor purchase, and even calls a trial along the corridor would be a “game changer” for bicycling in Kirkland, especially once the new 520 bridge opens with its multi-use trail.

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12 responses to “Kirkland may purchase 5.75-mile rail corridor, build new trail”

  1. Hopefully(though I personally doubt it) Kirkland will take the first step in moving towards a mass-transportation system using the old roadbed. The BGT now being a bike trail is one big waste of space, and now this can start to be averted. Use old RR grades for more than just biking, they’re the perfect alignment for streetcars and light-rail.

    1. Andreas

      I can only imagine the NIMBY obstructionism that would occur were King County or any other municipality to try to put rail back on the SLS&E right-of-way. The Interurban, maybe, but lakeside property owners won’t let it happen for a long, long time.

    2. Gary

      Sorry, but as a Light Rail corridor, the rail bed is in the wrong location. That’s why Sound Transit didn’t say anything when the Port grabbed it. They may be the perfect grade, but this is not the perfect alignment.

    3. doug p

      The Burke-Gilman is a big waste of space? Really? News to me.

      In all honestly, I think mass transit is great. I don’t think the BG right of way is actually a good place for it.

      Can you explain why you think it would be great? How would it work, especially in places where the ROW is pretty narrow. Are you suggesting dispensing with the bike path component of the ROW?

    4. Freight rail corridors aren’t necessarily good alignments for light-rail rapid transit, and typically aren’t good for streetcars. Freight rail mostly needs a level route, where passenger rail needs to match passenger demand.

      As far as this specific rail corridor goes, it’s sort of like the less popular half of the 255, but replaces downtown Kirkland, Northwest University, and maybe some other minor stuff with a bunch of nothing on the side of hills. I don’t think the 255 suffers from much traffic congestion in this area (I either ride the 255 or bike parallel to it for my commute, so I have some idea of this), so there’s not really much to gain replacing it with a train.

      These corridors can work better for bike paths than passenger trains because walkshed is a lot less important for bike paths. The big danger is that they do a bad job with intersections, like they did on the Burke.

  2. As far as a bike path in this corridor goes, sure, it could work. The current best bike routes parallel to it are passable but flawed. The biggest challenge for this bike path will be connections. Access to the southern end will be a challenge — it’s a steep climb on 108th from Northup up to the tracks, on a narrow arterial. Connections from Lake Washington Boulevard (52nd, potentially 43rd with some work) would be even steeper. Probably the best connection would be from 38th along the edge of the P&R.

    (Lake Washington Boulevard, immediately north of Northup, doesn’t have a bike lane, but it has something better than a bike lane: a second general-purpose lane that ends just north of 38th. So it’s a good connection from Points Drive, which is currently an awesome bike route, to 38th. As far as I can tell in 2014 the 520 bike path will drop cyclists on the road at 92nd/Points Dr… with any luck they’ll keep the steep hill on Points closed to cars… so, anyway, if this path has legs and the 520 work happens on schedule, in 2014 you’ll be able to ride a nice direct route from Montlake to Kirkland without much exposure to traffic.)

  3. Brian

    Yes, absolutely, a railroad lining the perimeter of Lake Washington would be a tremendous boon to mass transit. I can only imagine the number of riders such a line could attract.

  4. Todd

    Out of all the bike stuff proposed in King County this is the real deal. I get that I am on the outside.,… on the suburban level… but this makes the most damn sense with suburbia. I ride the outskirts of this area and honestly love it. But I’ve always wondered why they could not make this connection. Everybody in the biking community should love this concept. Why? Because it directly connects the downtown area with the Eastside and some great trails. Let’s go Evergreen Floating Bridge!!

  5. @Doug P, I’d prefer to keep a bike path, but if its between mass-transit and bikes, I’ll go for the rail portion.

    I have rode the BG way to many times, when I used to work on the eastside. As a cyclist, I don’t see much in these being bike only trails, it shows us as a group as being elitist and worse, not being efficient movers of mass amounts of people.

    One of the problems here are the NIMBYS, as pointed out earlier. It really doesn’t take that much space to run a light-rail car or two, but people don’t want to be inconvenienced, so hence they get upset at thought of being delayed by construction project which may not even benefit them.

    Nothing new.

  6. transitwonk

    Whoever owns the stretch of the rail line from Totem Lake north to Woodinville (I guess it’s the Port) should also make that a bike trail. Connecting with the Burke-Gilman at Woodinville junction, this would finally create a low-grade woodsy bike route from Seattle to Kirkland.

  7. […] The City of Kirkland has some big hopes for the 5.75 miles of Eastside Rail Corridor it is on the verge of purchasing from the Port of Seattle (see our previous story). […]

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