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Times: Kirkland rail corridor plans aim high

Used with permission.

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).

The Seattle Times reports that City Manager Kurt Triplett sees the right-of-way as Kirkland’s “equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase” because of its potential as a huge linear park, multi-use trail and transit right-of-way.

From the Seattle Times:

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He sees a 100-foot-wide open space that will someday be a linear park, paved trail and a mass-transit line all rolled into one.

And because the Eastside Rail Corridor connects a key Highway 520 park-and-ride with a Google campus and the city’s future economic center, Totem Lake, Triplett also sees it as a tool to grow and attract businesses.

At Triplett’s urging, the Kirkland City Council has authorized the purchase of 5 ¾ miles of the corridor in a $5 million deal scheduled to close next month with the Port of Seattle.

The council is now considering whether to ask voters to fund a hard-gravel trail to serve walkers and mountain bikers.

For Triplett, Kirkland’s acquisition of the former BNSF Railway line — “our equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase” — is a chance to expand public use of a 42-mile rail line he spent years as a King County official trying to bring into public ownership.

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What do you think of this vision?

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15 responses to “Times: Kirkland rail corridor plans aim high”

  1. Bruce Nourish

    I’d love to have a trail there, but I’m not sure whether putting a gravel trail there is going to draw many Googlers or other commuters to ride on it to work. Most people who bike-commute do so on roads and paved trails with road bikes (or at least, bikes with road-oriented tires), ’cause that’s that fastest way.

    Pavement would, of course, be rather more expensive. I’d almost rather they just pull out the track and let people walk on the railbed in the interim, saving the cash to pave it later. Or is the $3 million just what it takes to rip up the rails?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      The plans I was referring to is the transit, paved trail, park idea they have for the future (not necessarily the gravel trail idea they are considering right now). Though a gravel trail would certainly be cooler than tracks. Unless, of course, the city simply bought some of these: http://www.railbike.com/

      1. Shane Phillips

        Oh my god, those railbikes would be so cool! I guess the problem is your destination would have to be really close to the rail line, which is probably not the case for most people. Sooo tempting though…

      2. Todd

        Gravel is a natural step to pavement. It’s all about the mighty dollar here. We have to take these things in stages.

    2. Timmy

      There’s gravel; and then there’s gravel. The kind you’re talking about makes a huge difference.

      I ride the Olympic Discovery Trail a lot around the Port Angeles neighborhood, sections of which are gravel “hardpack” which is suitable for any tires except really hard skinny ones. My road-iest bike is a Trek composite running 28mm tires and its just fine on that type of surface.

      So unless you’re running 23mm’s at 115 PSI, you might actually be OK on the gravel trail.

  2. Brad Hawkins

    Me thinks he doth not aim high enough.

    I don’t mind riding on gravel but that will seriously cut the throughput on the trail. Then, when there aren’t that many users after gravel build out, the naysayers will point and scoff.

    However, these trails do typically start at gravel. They eventually turn into asphalt but only on a much longer time scale because the half measure has been taken already.

  3. LWC

    I hope they find a good way to link it with the future 520 trail.

    1. Gary

      In any case from the S. Kirkland Park and Ride it wouldn’t be more than a block of street riding to get to the 520 trail.

      1. @Gary: Have you ever biked this area? I have; I’m a fairly hardened road rider, and I avoid that “one block” of street riding when I can. It’s one block, but it’s a really steep climb in a narrow lane, followed by a left-turn into the P&R that’s shared with lots of traffic. Even putting a bike lane in the climbing direction on that part of 108th (which would be nice otherwise, if they could make the geometry work) wouldn’t help users make the left near the P&R.

        I think there are some serious improvements needed to make it work. Many of these would also be big improvements for pedestrians. The 108th/38th intersection is really vital — putting in a stop light and proper crosswalks there might be the best way to help cyclists get up there in the short term. If we think this trail is going to continue on through Bellevue, the trail’s crossing of 108th will need some attention — mutual visibility with traffic from the north is seriously compromised by the shape of the road.

      2. Gary

        I have biked it but it’s been a long time and not at rush hour. I defer to your experience. Mine has been to avoid P&R’s because it seems like drivers are in a rush to get to their bus and have no patience for bicycles.

  4. If they’re going to connect the trail to South Kirkland P&R, the best access to South Kirkland P&R from the south (the future 520 trail) will probably be along NE 38th Pl. Any other way to get there involves some seriously steep climbs on non-bike friendly roads. I guess you could do a multi-use path that’s more direct with some land acquisition. Good access from the south would require they put in a bike lane on 108th in the climbing direction from Northup Way. Really, the fact that there’s not one already is pretty pathetic — 108th is a decent bike route other than that super-hard climb in a narrow lane.

    As for the short-term “hard gravel” path, I guess I’m picturing something like the Illinois Prairie Path, which I grew up right next to… or maybe like the main path through the Ravenna, or some of the gravel paths in the arboretum. You can ride a path like that with road tires — lots of people do it on the Prairie Path — but there’s tons of dust, which isn’t good for your drivetrain. I work along the proposed trail and often approach on bike from 520 bus stops; I wouldn’t go out of my way for a hard gravel trail.

    100 feet seems like truly excessive width for this thing; the rail corridor is already pretty wide but some nearby land owners have already encroached on the land and probably don’t want transit operations on it of any sort. As far as transit goes… since the entire corridor is basically undevelopable cliffside that nothing faces all the way from S. Kirkland P&R through Totem Lake (there are a few businesses and residences that back up to it, including my employer, but not all that many), I just don’t think it’s a good transit route at all. The 255 as it is doesn’t achieve the load factors of the 358, but I can’t imagine a route that bypassed almost everything between South Kirkland P&R and Totem Lake (including downtown Kirkland) by sticking to a freight rail corridor would do any better.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That may be. I guess it’s worth a look or a study since the ROW now exists. I don’t really know about how much transit is needed there. I doubt a Burke-Gilman transit route would be all that great, for example, for the reasons you mention (high cliffs, skips commercial centers, etc).

      In fact, that’s why I like neighborhood greenways so much. If done right, they would feel about as safe as a trail, but would actually pass through high density commercial and residential areas. Really, a neighborhood greenway route has more in common with a transit route than a recreational trail.

      That said, when you have the chance to pave a separated trail right through the center of your city, you have got to take advantage of that. What an incredible opportunity for Kirkland.

    2. Mike H

      BTW, the last time I saw the plans, the 520 project will include a climbing lane on 108th St from Northup to at least 38th. They are widening out the roadway slightly to accommodate it. (Disclaimer: This was over 6 months ago so things may have changed.)

  5. Todd

    This is my back yard and I’ve thought for a long time this would be a GREAT use of land use. Crossing my fingers that this blossoms into something great.

  6. […] 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 […]

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