The King County Council approved a master plan for a trail along the Eastside Rail Corridor Monday by a unanimous vote of 9–0. The vote is a key step towards creating the region’s most significant new trail since the Burke-Gilman opened in 1978.
Connecting through or near the hearts of major Eastside communities from Renton to Bellevue to Kirkland to Woodinville, the Eastside Trail promises to completely change the game for non-motorized transportation east of Lake Washington.
“We will be connecting thousands of residents up and down the Eastside to transit, trail, recreation and economic development opportunities,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci in a press release after Monday’s vote (see in full below). Balducci chairs the Eastside Rail Corridor’s Regional Advisory Committee and, along with County Executive Dow Constantine, has been a major force behind making this happen and putting a sense of urgency into getting it done as quickly as possible.
There are many pieces of funding and work all moving at the same time. If everything comes together as planned, most sections of the trail could be open by 2020. As we reported in October, the County has already secured $10 million from various sources to rehab the Wilburton Trestle, one of the most challenging and promising segments of the whole route. Building a missing nearby crossing of I-405 is also scheduled as part of a major WSDOT freeway project that should be complete by the end of 2020.
Though the Master Plan sets a $137.5 million long-term vision to complete and pave the entire project, the county is looking at moving quickly to build and open a much lower cost interim trail that could be partially open by the end of this year, mostly open in 2020 and fully open in 2023. Here’s the schedule as presented to the Council:
Kirkland has already opened its section as an interim hard pack gravel trail. The city also created its own master plan to fully pave the trail in the future.
Snohomish County also recently purchased its section of the corridor, though their plans for a trail lag behind King County’s. However, the vision for a connection through to the City of Snohomish and connecting to the incredible Centennial Trail is very exciting.
Here’s the full King County Council press release:
On Monday, the Metropolitan King County Council approved the next step in making the Eastside Rail Corridor a reality through the passage of the ERC’s Trail Master Plan. The Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) is the former BNSF rail line that runs through the linear heart of the Eastside.
The Trail Master Plan, which includes the entire 42 mile corridor running from Snohomish County to Renton, lays out a multi-use vision that will allow people and green spaces to coexist on a car-free, transit and trail corridor. When completed, the Eastside Rail Corridor is expected to be the most heavily used recreational corridor on the eastside of King County. The ERC’s Trail Master Plan focuses on the trail portion of the multi-use vision while maintaining room for other uses and economic development and educational opportunities directly adjacent to the corridor, like the Global Innovation Exchange and REI’s corporate headquarters.
“I am excited to approve the Trail Master Plan so we can finally roll up our sleeves and get to work on creating one of the most unique corridors in the country. “Said Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who also Chair’s the Eastside Rail Corridor’s Regional Advisory Committee. “We will be connecting thousands of residents up and down the Eastside to transit, trail, recreation and economic development opportunities.”
“This Master Trail Plan is an important milestone in the development of this great treasure for all of King County,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. I’m looking forward to the day when the entire corridor is completed and being used by many. Until then it’s encouraging to see the progress that is being made every day and this is just one more very important step in that journey.”
“Thanks to all those who shared their voice about the future of this shared community resource,” said Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn. “I am excited that this long time vision of King County and countless others on the Eastside is moving forward.”
“Now that the master plan is approved, we can begin creating a world-class, multi-purpose trail that knits together East and South King County communities,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Today’s action by the County Council will help us complete sections of the trail by 2020, including the iconic Wilburton Trestle.”
The ERC runs through Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond and Bellevue, and parts of unincorporated Snohomish and King Counties. The corridor represents the final, uninterrupted stretch of land through the spine of east King County, creating a unique and once in a generation opportunity for transit alternatives and pedestrian use.
Balducci, Dunn and Lambert represent the County on the Eastside Rail Corridor’s Regional Advisory Committee and shepherded the plan into fruition.