The Kirkland City Council unanimously approved Tuesday night what City Manager Kurt Triplett called “a momentous decision” to remove the old railroad ties and rails from the 5.7-mile Cross Kirkland Corridor.
With almost no discussion and without even hearing a scheduled presentation by city staff, the council authorized a plan to take out the rails and build a gravel trail on the abandoned Burlington Northern rail line through town. The rails would be removed beginning early next year, followed by the construction of an 8- to 10-foot wide gravel path that would be finished in 2014.
The total project cost would be $3.6 million, of which $3.2 million has already been acquired.
Before the vote, Triplett advised the council that it had before it “a truly momentous decision.”
The city’s vision for the corridor is for a pedestrian/bicycle trail that will link Kirkland’s parks, businesses and neighborhoods north to south, perhaps followed at some point in the future by a light transit system.
Many oppose removal of the railroad infrastructure as making future rail use on the corridor cost-prohibitive. But Mayor Joan McBride said the decision was not being made lightly.
“This really wasn’t done quickly,” she said. “We’ve been talking with and working shoulder to shoulder with our Transportation Commission and our neighborhoods about this, and we are delighted to make this decision.”
Before the vote, Councilman Toby Nixon did ask Triplett about a letter the city received from Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak opposing rail removal. Snohomish County interests have expressed a desire to use the tracks for a possible excursion train and/or for a future commuter line.
Triplett spoke by phone with Guzak at length earlier this week, and said that although she continues to oppose rail removal, she understood Kirkland’s desire to move forward with the trail.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to liberalize rules on residents keeping chickens, and make them largely conform to those grandfathered in on northern neighborhoods annexed in 2011.
The new rules allow residents to keep three fowl on single-family residences regardless of lot size, and one additional chicken for every 1,000 square feet of lot size above 5,000, to a maximum of 20 birds. Roosters will be allowed on lots of 35,000 square feet or larger, except in annexation areas, where old King County rules allowing them on most lots regardless of size remain in effect.