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$25M federal grant will help cross final major Eastrail hurdle: I-90

Aerial photo with the trail route marked as it crosses over I-90.
From King County.

King County has secured a $25 million federal RAISE grant to rehab an old railroad bridge over I-90 that had been one of the few major pieces still missing from the Eastrail route. The funds will also build and pave 1.7 miles of the trail in the I-90 area and “create safe connections” to the I-90 Trail that passes underneath the rail bridge. $25 million is about half of the total project cost, and the grant application notes that there is still a $10 million funding gap.

With the NE 8th Street bridge open as of Sunday and the Wilburton Trestle and I-405 crossings already in construction, the I-90 crossing was the final remaining unfunded Eastrail gap between Renton and Woodinville. Once complete, this trail has the potential to rival the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle. It will revolutionize the role of biking and walking on the Eastside and reorient neighborhoods.

Don’t expect to bike on the I-90 crossing in the near future, however. First, King County voters will need to approve the King County Parks levy renewal next year, which will provide necessary local funding. Then a nearby sewer project will use the trail right of way until 2027. After years of planning and dealing with encroachments, the grant application anticipated a 2031 opening. There’s gotta be a way to speed up that timeline.


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Table outlining the projected project schedule with planning until 2027 and construction from 2028 to 2031.
From the RAISE grant application.
Map of the full Eastrail route with the I-90 section marked.

For the years between the Wilburton Trestle opening in 2026 and the I-90 crossing opening (hopefully sooner than 2031), people will be able to get through the area via 118th Ave SE (AKA Lake Washington Blvd SE). So it’s not like the trail will be unusable in the meantime, but the route won’t be as seamless and separated from traffic.

The recent news that King County has officially allowed e-bikes on trails (a restriction many people did not know existed) is also pertinent because e-bike riders tend to ride longer distances more often. This trail will be coming online as more and more people buy e-bikes and are willing to bike longer distances for more trips. With connections to the Sammamish River and Burke-Gilman Trails to the north, the 520 and I-90 Trails in the middle, and the Lake Washington Loop, Cedar River Trail and Lake to Sound Trail to the south, the Eastrail will be the primary backbone of the region’s trail network.

This work also puts the onus on Seattle to invest in its part of the Lake Washington trail loop. The Seward Park Ave and Lake Washington Blvd sections in Seattle will be the only segments that are not friendly to riders of all ages and abilities.

In addition to the I-90 crossing funding, Woodinville won a $5 million federal RAISE grant to plan its section of the rail corridor trail that could someday connect the Eastrail to the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County.

Aerial photo of the existing railroad bridge over I-90 that will be retrofitted to host the trail.
The existing rail bridge. Photo from King County.
Photo looking across the railroad bridge, which still has rails in place.
Still from a King County video.

More details from the King County press release:

King County Executive Dow Constantine today thanked U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell for securing a $25 million federal grant administrated by the U.S. Department of Transportation that will help King County Parks close the final gap of the southern segment of Eastrail by crossing Interstate 90.

King County Parks will use the funds to retrofit a steel bridge that spans 16 lanes of Interstate 90. It is the latest progress for Eastrail, an emerging 42-mile trail that will ultimately connect South and East King County communities to Snohomish County with a spur to Redmond. Executive Constantine and partners recently kicked off a project that will add the 1,000-foot-long Wilburton Trestle to the former rail corridor and on Sunday opened a new trail bridge that connects Eastrail to Sound Transit’s Wilburton Station.

“Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell have delivered a victory for regional trails, climate, mobility, and opportunity,” said Executive Constantine. “The Biden administration appreciates that investing in regional trails creates and connects sustainable, healthy communities with new access to high-capacity transit – and that’s what we will achieve with the RAISE Grant.”

The federal RAISE Grant, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will cover nearly half the total project cost of $49 million, which will build 1.7 miles of new paved trail and create safe connections to the 20-mile Mountains to Sound Greenway trail. Closing the Eastrail gap will provide access to 16 miles of non-motorized trails north through Bellevue and 5 miles south to Renton.

“This major federal investment will help King County close the Eastrail I-90 gap while building out a shared use path that everyone can enjoy,” said Senator Murray. “Every inch of progress so far has been thanks to the partnership of so many: nonprofits, local government, local businesses, and — now — the federal government. Expanding these kinds of trails does so much good for our quality of life while also connecting and strengthening local economies—being able to support these important projects is exactly why I created the RAISE grant program in the first place.”

“The funds announced today are the final link connecting the north and south segments of this beautiful trail, giving Eastside residents a 42-mile pathway to walk and enjoy,” said Senator Cantwell.

U.S. Representatives Suzan DelBene and Adam Smith were also instrumental in advocating for this funding and delivering this grant for King County.

Eastrail will provide direct connections to four of Sound Transit’s 2 Line stations and will be the north-south spine of Leafline, a Central Puget Sound regional trail network that connects King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties.

“With the help of our federal partners, we’re making yet another stride in creating a region-wide, climate-friendly transportation network,” said King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “And the timing couldn’t be more fortuitous as we have just opened light rail on the Eastside and the Eastrail NE 8th Street Bridge, recently broken ground on the Wilburton Trestle and will now be able to start work to safely cross I-90, bringing our longtime vision for this 42-mile trail from Woodinville to Renton close to completion. Deepest thanks to the US Department of Transportation for seeing how valuable this trail is to our region and to Eastrail Partners for their help in securing this funding.”

“Throughout my tenure as Co-Chair of the Eastrail Regional Advisory Council we’ve been working hard to close the final gap in the trail network, and with this monumental funding award from USDOT, we are finally able to realize our vision of an uninterrupted 42-mile trail system,” said King County Councilmember Sarah Perry. “This will allow us to continue to connect our vibrant communities across East King County and expand access to our regional parks and open spaces, including King County Conservation Futures acquisitions and partnership on the Mountains to Sound Greenway corridor.”

The nonprofit group Eastrail Partners helps secure public and private funding for the regional trail, which is owned and managed by King County Parks, the cities of Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville, Snohomish County, Sound Transit, and Puget Sound Energy.

The City of Woodinville received $5 million in RAISE Grant funding to complete the design, planning, and permitting for its 2-mile segment of Eastrail.

“This exceptional trail requires exceptional community support and partnership to complete,” said Katherine Hollis, Eastrail Partners Executive Director. “This RAISE grant funding for two Eastrail projects – planning funding for the Woodinville section of trail, and capital funding for the I-90 gap project – reflects the exemplary partnerships, enthusiasm, and support that Eastrail Partners has been honored to help build.”

The Interstate 90 trail bridge project will be led by King County Parks, one of four divisions in the Department of Natural Resources and Parks.

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Comments

3 responses to “$25M federal grant will help cross final major Eastrail hurdle: I-90”

  1. Patrick

    It looks like this is the sewer upgrade that will have a bypass pipe taking up the right of way, apparently running the pipe on the bridge over I-90:

    https://kingcounty.gov/en/dept/dnrp/waste-services/wastewater-treatment/capital-projects/esi-8-rehab

    The good news is that it seems to start just south of SE 32nd St, leaving the north segment from the I-90 trail to the 405 bridge/Wilburton trestle available for construction. I hope some pressure can be applied to split the project into phases and at least open the part from the I-90 trail northward a few years earlier.

  2. Don Brubeck

    This is a great project and well worth the high cost.

    Now that we can see how much just repairing a bridge or trestle costs for the light loads of bike traffic, I hope that there will be no more complaints about the cost of the new Lander Street Bridge in Seattle for heavy truck, bike and pedestrian traffic.

    1. Al Dimond

      I do think the high costs are notable because high costs are imposed on the bike network by the freeways. Without the freeways there would be simpler ways to make a better and more connected bike network. We should remember these kinds of costs every time new or expanded freeway infrastructure is proposed. Freeways aren’t the only kind of infrastructure that creates this kind of problem but they do create the biggest and worst problems.

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