The green shirts of Save Our Trail have been a prominent fixture in the Sound Transit Boardroom over the past several months. They have spoken early and often against “any type of transit, ever” on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor, a 5.75 mile segment of the 15.9 mile Eastside Rail Corridor that stretches from Woodinville to Renton.
Save Our Trail has had disproportionate success, deftly exploiting a wedge between more technocratic Kirkland officials (who went all in on BRT on valid technical grounds) and Sound Transit boardmembers (who were Rail or Bust on valid electoral grounds). In the absence of organized pro-transit voices in the debate, Save Our Trail emerged as the only stakeholder group making noise. The updated ST3 System Plan, set to be adopted next week, includes a short rail spur to South Kirkland and a “corridor study” of extensions further north. If adopted as written, the South Kirkland station would open in 2041 and any extension further north likely in the 2050s, too far in the future to be relevant to many of today’s homeowners.
But this multi-generational deferral isn’t good enough for Save Our Trail. They want the South Kirkland station cancelled, even though it lies entirely within Bellevue. They want a guarantee that the corridor will not even be studied for rail use. They want Sound Transit’s easement rights on the corridor to be given to the City of Kirkland. Most of all, they want to permanently prevent Downtown Kirkland, Google, and Totem Lake from ever enjoying the benefits of dedicated right-of-way.
Let’s parse each of the three words in Save Our Trail. “Save” implies a rescue from a negative change in the corridor’s status, which is peculiar language for a century-old rail corridor with permanent rail banked status. “Our” implies ownership or at least special privilege to influence its use, when the corridor is, has been, and always will be a public asset for general public benefit. The current “Trail” is explicitly an interim use made possible by rail removal in anticipation of the eventual construction of transit and permanent paved trail facilities.
By threatening to block construction of public facilities on public land, they are claiming rights they do not have on property they do not own. They are not seeking to preserve or “save” anything, but quite the opposite, to suddenly undo the regional consensus on the corridor’s destiny as a multi-modal corridor.
NoST3.org redirects to the Save Our Trail website, and they are already planning to pivot to a No campaign, even though they got 90% of what they wanted. At the Sound Transit Board meeting on June 23rd, SOT members are saying on Next Door that they are ready to kick off a formal opposition campaign:
On June 23rd the Sound Transit Board will be adopting the final ST3 system plan. It will be an important day! We fully expect that the light rail extension from Bellevue to the S. Kirkland P&R and the environmental study will be in the final plan. Hence, we have been preparing to reveal the NO!ST3 campaign at this meeting, along with other groups that have joined a coalition as well.
We have ordered 100 NEW RED T-shirts with the circle logo with a line through it No! ST3 which we hope to have available on Monday, June 20th, week of the Board meeting. Cost will be the same $15 each. We will also have new signs.
Given the impasse between Kirkland and Sound Transit, the path of least resistance was acquiescence, with the short extension to South Kirkland being the best that could be negotiated as an alternative. But everyone involved understands that SOT has no legal argument to stand on, so why not call their bluff? What are a few dozen homeowners voices in a transit-desperate region of millions? The inevitable lawsuits would be painful and torturous, but there is little doubt that transit interests would prevail. And since we’re already talking decades, why not get started? For a region that loves its spines, it would be an apt time to grow one.