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County Council OKs Purchase of 15.6 miles of Eastside Rail Corridor

The former railway line extends from Snohomish to Renton and includes a spur into downtown Redmond. The city of Kirkland previously purchased 5.75 miles of the line for its Cross Kirkland Corridor.

 

The King County Council has voted unanimously to purchase a 15.6-mile portion of the Eastside Rail Corridor -- 5.75 miles of which were previously purchased by the city of Kirkland -- from the Port of Seattle for $15.8 million.

According to a news release, the county will have three years to pay the purchase price and, in exchange, will receive a fee ownership of 15.6 miles of the corridor and an easement ownership over an additional 3.6 miles.

The legislation, proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine in August and approved Monday, coincides with the City of Redmond's plans to build a 3.9-mile linear park along a portion of the former rail line that was purchased by the city in 2010, as well as Kirkland’s recent acquisition of its porton of the line.

Redmond Mayor John Marchione said the city will still maintain ownership of the rail line within city boundaries, while providing limited easements to King County.

The city of Kirland had sent a letter to the King County Council supporting its purchase of the 15.6-mile stretch it sought. "The good news for Kirkland is that we get to decide what we'll do with our part of the trail," said City Manager Kurt Triplett.

The Eastside Rail Corridor runs from Snohomish to Renton along former Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks through the cities of Woodinville, Kirkland and Bellevue. Also included in the purchase agreement is a seven-mile spur between Woodinville and Redmond.

The county council envisions the Eastside Rail Corridor serving as a recreational trail for cyclists and pedestrians that would connect with other regional trails, such as the Sammamish River Trail in Redmond and Woodinville and the I-90 Trail in Bellevue. Light rail is also planned for a large segment of the corridor.

“This corridor is poised to become an important transportation link among Eastside suburbs,” council member Kathy Lambert of Redmond stated in a news release at the time of the purchase proposal.

Meanwhile, Kirkland is in the process of converting its 5.75 miles of the line into a bicycle and pedestrian path, and preliminary work has begun on the Redmond Central Connector, a linear park that will run through downtown Redmond on the former rail line. The project will include a paved path for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as interactive art pieces.

The first phase, a one-mile segment between the Bear Creek Trail and Sammamish River Trail that's projected to cost $3.9 million, is expected to wrap up construction sometime next year.

Karen Story December 12, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Is the County purchasing Kirkland's portion as well? I'm a little confused about who's paying for what, and how the ownership works. Will the County control everything except Kirkland and Redmond's portions? Will Kirkland get any money from the County for the Kirkland portion? (Although I'm glad Kirkland acted when it did to purchase its section, I'm wondering if we could have saved $5 million if we'd waited.)
Toby Nixon December 12, 2012 at 04:07 PM
The county bought the portions south of Kirkland (to Renton) and north of Kirkland (to Woodinville). No change to Kirkland's ownership, control, or plans for its portion. We will participate in the regional coordination committee the county is setting up, but remain the deciders on what happens to the Kirkland segment. The plan of record continues to be to remove the rails and develop the interim (gravel) trail in the first half of 2013.
Greg Johnston (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Thanks Councilman Nixon! Karen, the council's action basically consolidates pubic ownership of all or most of the 42-mile corridor. Kirkland and Redmond continue to own their portions, and all three entities plan on converting the line first to trail, and perhaps later for light rail.
Art Valla December 12, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Great news. Now, how do we keep the rail bed from being destroyed? Eventually we will need a north-south light rail line. If Sound Transit's predictions are correct and we will have 1,000,000 new people coming to King County in the next 15 years, NOW would be the time to begin planning the stations, parking lots, and transportation coordination. Let's not do another "Seattle" and try and re-install light rail after the infrastructure has been destroyed. We don't have the hundreds of billions of dollars that would cost.
Art Valla December 12, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Hi Mr. Nixon. Of all the politicians mentioned in the article, you seem to be the only one conscious of the cost impacts of public decisions. Dow Constantine wastes money like there is no tomorrow (Alki ferry, Maury Island). Kurt Triplett was Sims No. 1 man in charge of the county budget. Remember the state audit where they found receipts for $200M projects were kept on scraps of paper, and how each department in King County government had a different accounting standard and methods? Guess who was in charge? Kurt is hell bent on destroying any future rail use of the corridor. Once a trail, always a trail. Of the tens of thousands of miles of rails-to-trails, only about 10 miles has ever been converted back into rail use. Once the tracks are gone and the trail pavement is in, getting it back away from the Cascade Bicycle club will be impossible.. Think how hard it would be to convert the Burke-Gillman back into a light rail corridor! Now, any one with half a brain can see that an around-the-lake light rail line will eventually be needed. Why destroy the infrastructure we have when we will need it again in just a few years? I propose that ALL signage and government maps be required to state that this is a RAIL CORRIDOR. Any trail use that conflicts with future rail use be designated as "temporary" and that a conversion plan for returning it to rail use be completed before the first rails are torn out.

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