Those who want to save an Eastside rail corridor are running short of time.
While Kirkland may start tearing out the tracks in its portion of the corridor in a matter of weeks, a group calling itself the Eastside Trailway Alliance is fighting on. More than 30 people - including some supporting Kirkland - attended the alliance's second call-to-arms meeting at a posh Woodinville winery recently. Pinot gris, merlot and an assortment of cheeses provided a mellow counterpoint to the tenor of the hardening debate.
The cities of Woodinville and Snohomish and several other parties have signed onto the ad hoc coalition's manifesto, which calls for “joint rail and trail development” and a moratorium on track removal. Kirkland intends to put in an interim bike-pedestrian trail on its existing 5.75 miles of railbed, and then begin planning a permanent trail and possible reinstatement of rails on the right-of-way.
Kirkland officials met in November and December with Doug Engle, managing director of Eastside Community Rail, which runs a freight operation at the north end of the 42-mile corridor and is looking to expand its traffic through Kirkland to Bellevue, where pending development projects promise plenty of construction debris in need of removal. Those meetings resulted in an impasse, shifting the standoff into a more public sphere.
“We made no bones about it, going into the discussions, that the corridor could be reactivated,” Engle told Crosscut. Reactivation would involve a federal regulatory board, acting on a petition, authorizing a freight operator to take over an inactive line to reach new customers.
The implied threat of bringing in the feds failed to move Kirkland.