In the shadow of Bellevue’s Wilburton Trestle, King County Executive Dow Constantine announces the draft master plan for the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Trail on February 29 (Photo by Author).

Last week, King County Parks published a draft master plan for the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Trail. The County aims to develop a permanent paved trail on over 16 miles of the corridor.

As the trail plan enters a public comment period, Sound Transit is finalizing its own draft system plan. That will clarify how portions of the corridor may be shared with transit. Across the Eastside, efforts to bring the corridor into public use are accelerating. Legacy freight tracks will be removed in 2017, and trails are being expanded. Snohomish County has agreed to buy 12 miles of corridor and is expected to build a trail alongside the active rail line. A once contentious political debate over rails vs trails has been mostly replaced by a consensus that the ERC will serve both (though it still echoes in Kirkland where transit opponents have coalesced around “Save Our Trail” rhetoric).

Since being rail-banked in 2009, ownership has resided with several jurisdictions. The cities of Redmond and Kirkland mostly own the segments within their respective city limits. Sound Transit owns a 1-mile section where East Link will be built. The balance of the rail-banked area is owned by King County. The County is also the trail sponsor in the Sound Transit area. Sound Transit and other utilities retain easements along the ERC. Owners and stakeholders collaborate through the ERC Regional Advisory Council.

Here’s a flavor of what’s going on:

Eastside Trail Master Plan. The draft master plan, released last week, and open for public comment through the end of March, describes a high quality trail on 16.5 miles of the main line and a portion of the Redmond Spur. Planners envision a paved trail at least 12 feet wide with a 6-foot gravel shoulder for runners and walkers to one side and a smaller gravel shoulder on the other.

The plan generally describes two alternative alignments. The lower cost alternative mostly follows the relatively flat rail-bed. An off-railbed alternative specifies a trail closer to the edge of the corridor to provide flexibility for accommodation of other uses. In some areas, only one alternative is possible. Near Renton, the corridor is as narrow as 25 feet. In Bellevue, East Link has already constrained the alignment. An important consideration is that the ERC trail not preclude other uses on the corridor.

Conceptually, the cost of an on-railbed alternative is about $158 million (midpoint of range), and the off-railbed alternative could add $90 million if pursued through the entire corridor. However, only $11 million of that is in the critical Wilburton segment (I-90 to Kirkland) where transit uses are more likely. Partly, that’s because this segment is already constrained by East Link and other development so that only one option is available. South of Bellevue, and north of Kirkland, a trail on the railbed carries less risk of being displaced by other uses. The trail master plan will be informed by the concurrent Sound Transit system planning process.

A signature element of the ERC trail will be the Wilburton Trestle, almost 1,000 feet long and 100 feet tall. The trestle will be one of the most popular destinations along the trail, and extra space will be added on the structure for viewing without impeding trail traffic.

Transit Connections. East Link will use the rail corridor for about one mile north of downtown Bellevue. Though politically contentious, it’s possible that ST3 will also include transit connections along the corridor. All of the Eastside cities endorsed transit on the ERC serving Kirkland and Issaquah in letters to Sound Transit in January.

Disused rails will be removed in areas owned by King County and Sound Transit in 2017, making room for future uses. Map: King County

Rail Removal. In November, King County Council approved plans to remove freight rails through the sections of the corridor that it owns. The first phase of rail removal will extend from Kirkland to Coulon Park in Renton and be complete by mid-2017. Sound Transit will also remove rails in Bellevue to facilitate construction of East Link. A second phase will cover the areas north of Kirkland and Redmond. The County must initiate an RFP for excursion rail in that area, but if no feasible proposal is submitted, those rails will also be removed by early 2018.

A symbolic first spike was removed from the rail line in Bellevue on January 8. Selling the surplus rails is likely to help fund trail improvements. Rail removal will facilitate construction of an interim trail, potentially starting in 2017. Executive Constantine indicated the interim trail would begin with an extension from Kirkland to meet the SR 520 trail, creating a continuous connection “from Totem Lake to Montlake”.

Planned Pedestrian Bridge at the South Kirkland P&R/TOD.
Planned Pedestrian Bridge at the South Kirkland P&R/TOD (Graphic: City of Kirkland).

Kirkland. Rails have been removed through Kirkland, and an interim crushed-gravel trail put in place. Since opening the interim trail in the fall of 2014, the city has focused on improving neighborhood connections to the trail, with walkways and stairs to many adjacent streets. The most ambitious connection to date will open in 2017 in South Kirkland, where Kirkland is building an elevator and bridge to connect the transit station to the trail.

Kirkland’s master plan anticipates permanent paved trails on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor. Most sections will evolve to a shared use trail for bikes and other faster users, and a slower walking-only trail alongside. The plan describes a shared multi-use corridor with trails generally on the west side and transit to the east, and this general placement was acknowledged in Sound Transit’s recent studies. Kirkland’s development regulations encourage local businesses to face the corridor. Google’s recently expanded campus straddles the corridor with the first paved section of trail in the middle.

Redmond's Central Connector re-orients downtown Redmond around transit and walk/bike spaces on the former freight line.
Redmond’s Central Connector re-orients downtown around transit and walk/bike spaces on the former freight line (Graphic from the Redmond Central Connector Master Plan).

Redmond. Legacy freight rails have also been removed on the corridor spur in Redmond where East Link will terminate, and a trail is being built in phases along Redmond’s entire portion. The first phase from downtown Redmond to the Sammamish River Trail was completed in 2013. A second phase, north along Willows Rd to the 9900 block, will be completed this year. A third, and final, phase to about 124th St remains unfunded. That would connect the trail on the Redmond Spur to the nearby County-owned trail north of Kirkland.

Bellevue’s Grand Connection will connect the ERC to Downtown and Lake Washington (Graphic: City of Bellevue).

Bellevue. The corridor within the city of Bellevue is owned by King County and Sound Transit. Bellevue has focused on planning connections from the ERC to the community. Most notably, planning has begun on a ‘Grand Connection‘ linking the ERC, through downtown Bellevue, to Meydenbauer Bay. The connection would promote walking and bike use from downtown to Wilburton, including a crossing of I-405. The connection will influence the land use patterns of the Wilburton commercial area by improving connectivity to downtown and the ERC trail.

Snohomish County has agreed to buy a 12-mile section of corridor from the Port of Seattle, culminating an on-again, off-again negotiation over several years. That will allow Snohomish to build a trail alongside the tracks, connecting the King County trail to the south with the Centennial trail to the north. Rail lines would remain in service for freight and perhaps excursion service. The deal is anticipated to close in April.

Seven non-profits with interests in trails and transportation have combined to form the Eastside Greenway Alliance.
Seven non-profits with interests in trails and transportation combined to form the Eastside Greenway Alliance.

The first Eastside Rail Corridor Summit was held in Bellevue in January. The well-attended event was an opportunity for governments and nonprofits to identify priorities for corridor development. Speakers included urban planner Ryan Gravel and former Atlanta City Council president Cathy Woolard, both closely associated with the Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline has obvious parallels to the ERC; it is a 23-mile former freight rail corridor that is being developed as a trail system with transit alongside.

Eastside Greenway Alliance. Announced at the ERC Summit, the Alliance is an association of non-profit organizations with interests in trails and transportation. The Eastside Greenway Alliance set a goal of a “fully built connected multi-use corridor from Renton to Woodinville” by 2025. The Alliance will advance multi-use development of the ERC through community engagement, fundraising and advocacy.

50 Replies to “The Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Trail Starting to Take Shape”

  1. So unfortunate. Instead of using old rails that need only upgrades, we build a whole new system and turn the old rails into pavement. We’re duplicating what could have been in place for decades, and at a MUCH higher cost. Depressing.

    1. I agree. Been watching this unfold. Take advantage of what you have already and improve on what it was intended for. It’s so sad that they waste money. Yet they say that they’ll bring rail back in the future. LIES. Hard to trust when you waste taxpayer money.

    2. Also, you build a trail, and then when you add transit, people freak out because they are losing their quiet trail. That’s what is happening with CKC. I’m convinced opposition would be much lower if the temporary trail was never built. Kudos to the Kirkland city government sticking to it’s plan of multimodal use.

      Nonetheless, I think it’s better to put the space to use now, and incorporate transit uses in future years when funding is present. It sounds like King County will closely coordinate with Sound Transit to avoid needed t o tear up pavement in a few years – hence the analysis of on-railbed vs off-railbed, right?

      Also – the technology for electric light rail or busway is very different than the diesel rail that was before, so you’d have to rebuild the line anyways. Removing decades old rails might have been required anyways if they were transitioning straight to light rail usage?

      Rebuilding the Wilburton tressle seems a bit extravagant, but I suppose it will be a crown jewel in the Eastside’s park network.

    3. The old track was single-track and deteriorated. Upgrading it and replacing it are more or less the same thing. And the track may have had to be moved anyway to make room for the trail.

      1. Not entirely.

        If the track is there and bad, you use this:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ0XtiZZoyA

        Installing new track from scratch takes a much larger labor pool, requires bringing in rail by truck and welding on site, and being limited to road dimensions what equipment you can bring in. Once the track is gone, shoving a 1.5 mile long track repair machine over the existing line is a bit harder (though a couple of places have done it).

      2. There are 23,000 failed ties, and a bunch of failed culverts. So it’s a meaningful amount of money to repair. It would still be a single line, unusable for any sort of frequent transit.

        With East Link in the middle of the corridor, it’s no longer usable for freight even if you repaired all the ties and replaced the missing Wilburton tunnel. And put the Kirkland tracks back in.

        And all that for a backup route? In a real emergency, can’t we use roads? How much non-local freight simply has to go through Seattle anyway? There are other ports.

      3. Interesting conclusions Dan.

        Backed up by an extensive knowledge of railroad ROW operations, I presume.

        “So it’s a meaningful amount of money to repair.”
        How much? Was the Sound Transit/PSRC analysis of Commuter Rail off the mark?

        “It would still be a single line, unusable for any sort of frequent transit.”
        It’s called Dispatching. It would work. Then be upgraded to LRT when the region needs that type of service.

        Like any other transit system, the value of commuter rail on that line was:
        It COST LESS than the chosen BetterFreewayBus system (aka Puget Sound style BRT)
        and
        Had the SAME RIDERSHIP, and it pulled more people out of their cars because the tie-in to Woodinville and points north to Snohomish.

        WSDOT should have been obligated to use gas tax/highway funding sources to replace the severed section over the daylighted Wilburton tunnel.

        Well, since BNSF had used that route to to ship wind turbine parts to eastern Washington years ago it functioned then I suppose there was no value to the ability to ship high/wide loads.
        BNSF only stopped shipping 737 fuselages on that line when they rebuilt all of the trestles from Black River Jct to the Boeing plant through downtown Renton.

        BNSF is a Class 1 railroad, they look for the heavy haul stuff, so short-lines (which the Woodinville sub is) are always candidates for the chopping block.(except for lucrative segments like the Boeing plant)

      4. Certainly you can’t run trains every 90 seconds over a single track line, but you’ll find some useful branch lines in Europe operating decent frequency on single lines. The east end of MAX used to be every 7.5 minutes on a single track line that was rebuilt from the existing freight line. They eventually double tracked it, mostly because wheelchair lifts and bridge lifts made the precision schedule impractical. If low floor cars had appeared 10 years earlier MAX might still be single track on the east end.

        If you have major obstacles where installing a bunch of sidings is cheaper than building a second bridge or something along those lines, and are able to maintain good timekeeping necessary for timed meets at the double track sections of the line, then single track might not be a big deal.

        It might especially not be a big deal if the population density is so sparse that frequent train operation isn’t required.

    4. Article says Snohomish will leave the rails in, and rail traffic will still exist in addition to the trail.

    5. Oh good grief! Maybe we should bring back steam engines and telegraph wires, too?

      There’s a reason BNSF sought to abandon the line… It is the linear property that is the main resource here – trails and transit have always been seen as sharing this corridor, but yes, time has marched on and the technologies of transport have certainly changed, not to mention changes in adjacent land use. The nature of what may be developed will certainly be different in Snohomish County from King County’s plans, but both will meet the unique needs of the specific areas.

      It’s more than a trail and transit – the utility corridor function may be just as vital as the other two operations – it seems timely to take the gift that this corridor represents and develop it to meet the needs of today rather than 1895.

      1. That line even when the rails were in good shape has been unusable for mainline freight for over 40 years, no you don’t actually, especially given how freight on the west coast actually moves. The vast majority of freight is coming in to the ports and moving east. If something happened in Seattle and you lost access to Steven’s pass you would use Stampede for most things, and for double stacks you would just go down to the gorge. The only freight impacted would be the limited amount that goes up to Vancouver and some of the coal/oil trains, which really frankly isn’t that bad of a thing.

      2. Losing all rail connections from the Port of Vancouver to the west coast of the US seems… highly undesirable. To me. Others may not care.

    6. “Instead of using old rails that need only upgrades, we build a whole new system and turn the old rails into pavement. We’re duplicating what could have been in place for decades, and at a MUCH higher cost.”

      I initially read this as mainly the first sentence, that we should have reused the existing tracks rather than replacing them. That ignores the deteriorated state BNSF left them in. But the second sentence has more truth than I realized: this corridor could have had commuter rail decades ago if our society had prioritized it instead of building freeways, and built our suburban centers around it, and if the federal government required more equal access to the land-grant railroads (as has also been proposed for the phone/cable wires to the home), and if we’d built more rights of way where the 19th-century railroads didn’t. Then we’d have a situation more like Chicago or Europe, with metros and commuter rail running everywhere.

      1. The historical photos of Downtown Bellevue in the 1960’s suggest that there would not have been much of a reason to put in commuter rail back then. It looked like a shopping center — one-story buildings and lots of free parking!

      2. It was still like that in the 1970s. But I was talking more about a regionwide and nationwide principle than about Bellevue and the Eastside in particular. The predominent pre-freeway population patterns as reflected in the 1972 subway proposal were Seattle toward Renton, Lake City and Bothell, and Bellevue to Crossroads. If Seattle had remained freeway-free like Vancouver, this pattern would probably have persisted. But the population increased dramatically in the 80s and 90s, and the freeways and lack of urban planning made it sprawl into the Eastside of today. It could have been different, with new city centers built around train stations and future stations, like the new Surrey BC downtown in the 1990s. Walkable centers that absorbed a larger share of the population growth.

        The Eastside Rail Corridor would have had more challenges than other corridors, because the predominent travel pattern was east-west to Seattle rather than north-south, and that’s still a large share today. The reason it goes north-south is the lake barrier. A subway on I-90 would have answered that, as the 1972 proposal did. But even without that, if the trains could have gotten up to 90 mph around the lake via Renton, it wouldn’t have been a big issue to go around. Obviously that would require upgrades from the current network, and perhaps another pair of tracks to allow fast passenger trains and slow freight trains simultaneously, but it could have been done over the past sixty years. And the cities could have planned for fast trains and made track-area safety improvements and overpasses as necessary.

  2. Why not build the South Kirkland P&R elevator and bridge at the same time the years-off busway or rail station is being built? Such a structure obviously isn’t needed to connect just a walking and bike trail with the transit station, with a sidewalk on 108th making a perfectly suitable connection between the two. Seems premature.

    1. I wouldn’t necessary say that. On weekends, people will drive to the P&R to use the trail, and those people will find the connection useful. Even on weekdays, it will be useful for people walking or biking down the trail to catch the bus. (Presumably the parking would be too full with transit riders to allow much parking for recreational uses).

      1. Let’s build a million dollar elevator and bridge so that people don’t have to walk 100 yards before they go on a 3 mile walk?

    2. When I saw the elevator, the first thing I thought of was asdf2 hiking from the P&R to Snohomish and Bellevue.

      Able-bodied people don’t actually need the bridge: the trail entrance is a half-block north but up a hill. Still, I don’t think we need to bother too much about which year the bridge is built; it’s not that much money and there are a lot of more critical transit issues.

  3. Very interesting stuff. Thanks for the report.

    From a transit perspective, I realize most of the work has been done on the Kirkland section, but has there been much talk about the rest of it? It seems like there is potential, although I can also see how we just didn’t luck out when it comes to a lot of the areas. Bellevue is a good example of this. From the Wilburton Gap (where this disappears as it crosses 405) up to 520 (and beyond) it looks really good. Unfortunately, connecting that area to Bellevue College/Factoria, is not good at all. Getting from I-90 to there, or building an I-90 station to connect buses to such a rail/BRT line would be extremely difficult (the crossing occurs right next to the 405 interchange). So the idea of saving much in the way of cost for a large connecting system is unlikely. But maybe buses that converge on the Lake Hills Connector/SE 8th area might leverage the corridor, and connect into transit up at Overlake (Wilburton Station), instead of slogging to downtown Bellevue.

  4. In general, I support putting the trail on the railbed as much as possible. Otherwise, you lose all the green space and end up with a hundred-foot right-of-way consisting of nothing but concrete.

    As to the opposition of transit running up and down the entire length of the CKC, it’s not just NIMBY’s who hate transit. I’ve talked to many people who ride transit regularly, and still oppose it. Regardless of bus vs. light rail or electricity vs. diesel, a roadway (or tracks) supporting any kind of powered vehicle, by necessity, needs to much wider than a trail. The trail as it is, is also very quiet, especially the first couple miles north of South Kirkland P&R. Anyone living along MLK is fully aware that even electric vehicles are not silent, and I don’t buy the notion that traffic congestion is so bad that a quiet trail surrounded by green space, rather than concrete is a luxury we cannot afford.

    Nor am I convinced that buses or trains on the CKC would offer a significant improvement in transit service over the status quo. The proposed plans all have stops far enough apart that the existing bus routes on 108th Ave. and Lake Washington Blvd. would have to remain, so any new buses on the CKC would have to be paid for with additional service hours (which could, instead, simply be re-directed into boosting frequency along the existing parallel routes). Meanwhile, even if the curves, themselves, are gentle enough to allow for 40 mph traffic, noise and safety concerns would result in an actual speed limit of more like 25-30 mph. The construction of the busway would also result in fencing that would cut off many informal access points to the trail from the east, not to mention years of disruptions for everyday trail users.

    I wholeheartedly support having a trail down the former railroad grade, and I can’t wait to see it extended all the way to Woodinville and beyond, but for transit, let’s stick to the streets and freeways that are already there.

    1. ” but for transit, let’s stick to the streets and freeways that are already there.”

      Would you support dedicated bus lanes on these?

      1. For the freeways, I suppose keeping the ETL lanes 3+ and adding a direct-access ramp to/from 85th St. On the surface streets, I don’t think there’s enough space to widen the roadway to include bus lanes, nor is there a lane of general-purpose traffic that could be taken. Fortunately, traffic volumes on these streets are minimal outside of rush hour, so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Even rush hour, we’re talking maybe a 5-minute delay to cross 68th St. Annoying, but not worth disrupting the trail and spending hundreds of millions of dollars over.

      2. I live in Kirkland and commute on the bus and really I have to say it’s probably a no go without some dedicated lanes on the major arterials. Right now the buses are struggling to hold anything close to schedule during peak to and Metro is constantly quietly tweaking here and there to adjust for that. E/W you’d likely need bus only on 85th, 124th, 132nd, NS you’d need them 124th and likely over on Market/100th. You might be able to get away with putting them in selectively to just allow queue jumps and address choke points, but in some places like 124th and 85th you’d probably need them most of the length of the arterial.

        This year most of Kirkland’s small starts style traffic projects are things designed to discourage neighborhood cut throughs or update side streets pedestrian access which reflects overflow from the overwhelmed arterial grid.

      1. You would think so – but BNSF apparently didn’t and sold it off. They think about alternate routes on a much larger scale I think their alternate access is in eastern Washington or maybe even Idaho.

      2. BNSF’s management who sold off the line? Idiots. Next time the main line floods out between Edmonds and Seattle, remember that.

        Basically this was the only backup route for traffic to Vancouver BC. Since the “main” route is no good because of the regular mudslides, there basically is no route to Vancouver BC. I think BNSF simply doesn’t care, but it’s not good for BC.

        Of course BNSF is sitting pretty: because the line is railbanked, if they ever need it for freight they can kick out all the trails on a couple of months’ notice and put the line back in, and absolutely nobody can stop them legally speaking. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple if the line is needed for passenger service.

    2. “In general, I support putting the trail on the railbed as much as possible. Otherwise, you lose all the green space and end up with a hundred-foot right-of-way consisting of nothing but concrete”

      This ‘100 feet of concrete’ trope is a weird view of what trails in a 100′ corridor look like. I was in an online debate with the leader of Save-our-Trail this week in Kirkland where he dismissed a paved trail and referred to the gravel shoulder as the “natural trail” with the rest of the corridor a “swath of concrete”.

      For many of the green shirts, this isn’t really about trails at all. It’s about a very specific view of neighborhood character. The trail they want doesn’t have a lot of people on it. It’s exclusively a place for locals to go for a peaceful stroll in the woods. It specifically isn’t a transportation corridor. Bikes commuting through won’t be any more welcome than trains.

  5. I would like to sit down with the present opponents to all transit and show them pictures and videos of streetcars the size of our own. From what I’ve seen, these machines are the least intrusive form of transit, and can be made the quietest.

    There may, and should, be no choice about the elevators. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) probably demands it- as it should. Would be good if US marshals arrested management of the company that did our own transit elevators. Jail term at least long enough they can’t low-bid on this one.Though frequent breakdowns at stations with only one shaft probably already count as ADA violations.

    Interesting question, Jim. Would like to ask the U-LINK crew about what’s involved in tunneling under cemeteries, like the one just north of Volunteer Park. Surprised that Bertha hasn’t yet encountered any former residents of Pioneer Square, so historians can catalog make and year of the knife between their ribs, and the number of aces up their sleeves.

    Native Americans will probably say: “You don’t want to find out. Because we left sharp flint in their hands for future use.” Have to be careful when Ballard line gets started, because the Norse dead are an ill folk to cross on foggy nights. The political kind you’re probably talking about? “Digging in the Trail again, Rex? Bad dog, BAD, BAD dog!!!”

    Mark

    1. I’m not talking about actual cemetaries, I’m talking politics, Mark.

      The whole decision process for the ERC isn’t backed up by the analysis.

      This was gamed from the start, and quite honestly I’ll be really surprised if Kirkland doesn’t cave to the NIMBY’s.

  6. Given all the recent comments about having rail transit connect better to the urban hubs, ruing over the ERC being converted to trail may be misdirected. We keep dancing around the core problem, which is that the north-south travel movements on the Eastside are horrible and that connectivity to the Eastside urban hubs are horrible — and that a more coordinated, comprehensive and probably expensive strategy is needed to address the problems. Trying to approach each one — trails, ST3, 405 HOV policy, arterial street systems issues — is focused on looking at each one individually and not in a multi-modal systemic context.

    Consider that the ERC and 405 studies done for ST3 are the only ones which exclusively focused on fixed corridors, where other studies to Ballard, Everett or to Tacoma looked at different corridor alignments.

    We need to be adult and realize that we can’t fix the travel issues with just one incremental project at a time in this corridor. No one seems happy with the presented tradeoffs every time one is put on the table.

    I think that it’s time for a broader systems examination. Mix-and-match corridor options, selling ROW to buy it in other places, considering travel alignments further east rather than close to the lake and other out-of-the-box solutions are clearly appropriate to consider — as opposed to have a bunch of cities and agencies out there with each doing their own thing up and down the corridor.

    1. The difference goes back to the studies’ mandates: the corridors in Seattle were about “Find a way to connect urban village A to urban village B”. East Link was also that way. But the 405 and ERC studies were “Leverage this existing right of way (because it would be cheaper than building a new ROW)”. And the I-90 segment in East Link was like that. That doesn’t make the studies bad, it just makes them limited. In the case of I-90, rail plans go back to the 1980s when the federal freeway project was completed. On 405 it was more of a vague idea than a commitment: WSDOT outlined potential station locations and HOV/T lanes in case the region wanted to pursue BRT.

      But Al S has a greater point: ST should step back and and articulate what the Eastside’s transit needs are: how would a network reach people’s actual destinations, and what’s the target travel time? Then start brainstorming alignments that do that. Don’t be constrained by 405 and the ERC which may not go close enough to be useful. And that Kirkland-Issaquah line transferring at Wilburton needs particular skeptic scrutiny: Wilburton is not where hardly anybody is going. Bellevue TC is where a lot of people are going, and the most appropriate place for a transfer. Unless Wilburton is to grow larger than downtown Bellevue, and the city hasn’t committed to that much growth.

      But then that gets into cost and benefit. Seattle has such critical transit needs and high ridership, and so many people living in dense areas, and narrow streets that can’t fit transit lanes, and cliffs and waterways, that it’s obvious it needs grade-separated transit and new ROWs and it’s worth paying for. And East Link is similarly obvious: Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond is the largest chunk of trips on the Eastside. But other Eastside corridors are not as clear-cut or high-volume, because people travel like boats on a lake from everywhere to everywhere, and not so many people going from any one place to another. And they like their quarter-acre lot houses and cul-de-sacs and highways; that’s what they want to spend most of their money on. So they’re not willing to give transit that much: not enough for a tunnel more than a couple blocks, and my god elevated trains would just spoil the view and ruin the neighborhood. So there’s not many ways to go within those constraints, and using surface street ROW would lead to a slow network. So then you come back to the existing ROWs — 405 and ERC — and that gives ST an even greater impetus to focus on them rather than other alternatives. But that could change if enough people in the Eastside demand it.

      1. “On 405 it was more of a vague idea than a commitment: WSDOT outlined potential station locations and HOV/T lanes in case the region wanted to pursue BRT.”

        Correction:
        BRT on 405 was pursued by WSDOT because any use of the ERC was taken off the table for further analysis over 15 years ago.
        End of Subject.

      2. BRT was studied by WSDOT as part of a “complete streets” approach to the next highway upgrade. It doesn’t mean anything either for or against the ERC. The study was several years ago, when BNSF probably still owned the ERC and hadn’t committed to abandoning it yet.

      3. In the I-405 Corridor Program study, completed in 2001 WSDOT began to pursue ridership estimates on the ERC expanding on the preliminary study the PSRC had done in 1992, which was So. Kirkland to Renton.

        When they extended the limits from Woodinville to Renton, and then to a connection with Sounder at Black River Jct, they were up to around 3100 riders a day.

        At that point, the City of Renton and the Kennydale Neighborhood Association submitted a letter to the Program’s Executive Committee asking that the ERC not be studied any further.

        That’s all it took. Any municipality in the corridor had veto power over any of the various alternatives.

        The ERC, and in particular Commuter Rail, NEVER MADE IT to the Cost/Benefit Analysis.

        I was on the Citizens Committee.

        Years later, when I was on All Aboard Washington’s (formerly WashARP) board of directors, a number of us met with David Beal of Sound Transit. We asked that Sound Transit look deeper into this. Well, we actually were more strident and said “Commuter Rail MUST be on the ERC!!”, and David said “Hey, even thought I might agree with you, we can’t pursue it without doing the analysis. We need to get the numbers.” In 2009 they released the PSRC/Sound Transit study of commuter rail in the corridor.

        A year after all the municipalities signed off on the I-405 Corridor Program study.

        I remember watching the meeting where David Beal presented the analysis to the Sound Transit board, and even remember Joni Earl saying after he was finished “Do you think this is a viable project” and he answering in the affirmative. Sorry I didn’t tape the meeting.

        Don’t change history. You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts.

      4. You’ve hit upon one structural dilemma, guys. ST was historically committed to provide express bus (not “BRT”) only on freeway corridors for much of their routes. That’s why every route to this day is identified and justified by freeway segment. On the other hand, light rail is not defined to a specific right-of-way. Except when it came to the ERC for the reasons that Mike mentioned, nothing in the light rail program restricts use to freeway rights-of-way.

        I would also point out that 15 years ago was before ST2 and when ST1 light rail was a twinkle in the eye of the region, Jim. Much has changed since then. Consider just with ST2, the funding was provided to bring light rail to Lynnwood, Bellevue and South King — even giving residents a completely different way to travel on rail to the Eastside from the north or south (albeit a bit indirectly). Tens of thousands of employees are now in the Eastside that weren’t there 15 years ago. Finally, 405 has always been bad, but I sense that it is getting worse. Things are very different.

        Thus, the origin of my comment: A basic systemic revisiting of north-south travel is needed beyond just looking at a single technology for a single corridor. To put it in the context of this posting, if the ERC converts to a trail use, that decision should be made after a comprehensive corridor strategy is developed for rails, trails, freeways and local traffic. It’s one thing to defer funding; it’s another to politically allocate land for another transportation use for decades without prior forethought. Surely, any politician will see that absent a visible, fixed, fenced-off rail corridor that the public sees when they use the trail, there will be no way to attract support much less the funding to provide light rail in the future for the ERC.

      5. You do understand that these analysis are LONG RANGE, don’t you?

        The I-405 Corridor Program used 2030 as the horizon year.

        You can’t explore ALL options if you eliminate ONE of them from the start.

        We knew traffic was going to be bad back then. The one thing that wasn’t certain was:
        How it was going to be funded.

        There was a general assumption back then that it wasn’t going to take over 10 years to get a state transportation package passed. In fact, they were assuming most of the ‘improvements’ would be complete about now. (And by 2023 the congestion levels be back up to normal.. well. what was normal back in 2000)

        Infrastructure planning is meant to be long range, if you ‘follow the curve’ as you are suggesting you get Los Angeles.

      6. Any plan goes stale, Jim. The transportation assumptions and the future land use assumptions in 2001 are different than those today. All plans need updating at least every 10 years, especially long-range plans in rapidly growing areas. It’s admirable that you participated in 2001 and I’m grateful, though.

      7. I would also add that there are many more options to structure a north-south corridor than using exclusively 405 or exclusively ERC. That’s part of my core point. It appears that all those studies you mention define things one alignment or the other. In fact, it’s common for posters here to talk about a hybrid light-rail corridor from Kirkland to Bellevue using segments of both corridors, interline with Eastlink as a new segment, and split again in South Bellevue to follow I-90.

      8. “Any plan goes stale, Jim. “
        Of course it goes stale if you never act on it.

        The Growth Management Act required at least a 20 year plan from the cities.

        Planning in 10 year cycles means you will pretty much ‘follow the curve’.

        That’s fine.

        It will be dominated by a road-based transit system. Just like Los Angeles.

        Have at it.

        As I’ve said before, I don’t live in the corridor any more, so I have no skin in the game.

        It’s all entertainment now, but I will speak up when I see people post things that don’t reflect the actual history.

  7. Having walked the line/trail from the Woodinville wine district to downtown Kirkland, I am fairly certain that there will never be any kind of train running that route again. And I am a huge rail fan. The rail is intact until one crosses from Woodinville into Kirkland, where the trail begins. The trail is very nicely done, I must admit. I don’t remember seeing any development along the Kirkland trail. I’m sure there are houses and businesses nearby, but the trail seems surrounded by woodlands. (Don’t quote me on that–it was a while ago, but I certainly didn’t see any dense residential areas.) I can say I’m glad I don’t live in the Kirkland area, or drive through it, as vehicular traffic will only increase and exacerbate already existing gridlock. The last chance for rail in that corridor is gone, I’m afraid.

  8. Having a trail connection for the Sammamish River trail at Woodinville to the Centennial trail in Snohomish will be a great trail network upgrade. You’ll be able to bike from Seattle to Bryant in north Snohomish county.

  9. we don’t have the luxury of pissing away valuable underutilized transportation corridors spanning through traffic clogged areas because some retired people don’t commute and want to pretend they are in the complete wilderness when recreationally walking on a brand new trail. we need to get more out of this huge asset than solely a worthless recreational birdwatching trail

  10. It’s taking shape as a trail only few will use that won’t do anything for the traffic issues in the area. Wasted opportunity! Typical Seattle!

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