In the past I’ve written a lot about the BNSF rail line. You know the rail line that handled the Dinner Train through the eastside and Kirkland for many years, but I haven’t been writing much about it lately. Mostly because the situation seems to change on a weekly (daily?) basis and still nothing is written in stone as of yet.
But recently, there have been new plans brewing all over the eastside, not just Kirkland, but also in Redmond and Bellevue.
Some of these plans for the Eastside BNSF rail line may actually happen if the sale of the line goes through this month.
• The Metropolitan King County Council is reviewing a request by Executive Dow Constantine for $26.5 million to buy most of the corridor south of Woodinville.
• The Cascade Water Alliance is negotiating to buy an easement, possibly for around $8 million, that would eventually allow it to bring water from Lake Tapps to homes in Bellevue, Kirkland and other Eastside cities, alliance spokeswoman Elaine Kraft said Monday.
• Puget Sound Energy wants to obtain permanent easements for more than 180 existing crossings of the rail corridor by natural-gas and electric lines and for future easements, said Sue McLain, the company’s vice president of operations. She declined to discuss the price.
• Sound Transit is considering buying rights to use parts of the old rail line in Bellevue for its Eastside light-rail extension and the right to operate commuter trains on a longer segment sometime in the future, spokesman Geoff Patrick said.
So where is Kirkland and The Kirkland Highlands in all of this? Most critical is Metroplitan King County Council’s plan to buy most of the corridor south of Woodinville, which includes Kirkland. Dow Constantine has gone on record with his support of the trail for recreational use:
County Executive-elect Dow Constantine said the agreement will fulfill a promise to the region that the Eastside Rail Corridor will receive long-term protection from development and that it will be made available for recreational uses.
“By keeping this key transportation and recreational corridor in public ownership, we are making a major commitment to our shared future in King County,” Constantine said.
Does this mean the line will only be a trail and not used for transportation? The jury is still out on this one, but keeping the line in public hands is more of a guarantee the line will be used for a trail than if it gets into the hands of private concerns. Although many studies have been conducted in the past that question the viability and cost of the line for effective transportation, I expect continuing studies will be done.
“We brought together a great consortium of partners to bring the BNSF corridor into public ownership for perpetuity,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Securing this right-of-way is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the public to own a continuous transportation and recreation corridor between some of the region’s fastest growing cities and paralleling congested I-405.”
Interim trail use (“railbanking”) will be established on the Southern Portion and the
Redmond Spur under the National Trails Systems Act, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d) as of the closing of the Port’s transaction with BNSF.
The southern portion of the rail line means Kirkland and Bellevue.
Who will pay for acquisition of the rail line?
The Executive proposes use of the voter approved Conservation Futures Levy to acquire the sections of corridor between Renton and Woodinville and the seven mile spur between Woodinville and Redmond with the exception of the section inside the City of Redmond. Partners in the historic deal will purchase easements on the property for transportation and utility use.
What are do you think of about the future of the BNSF rail line in Kirkland? How would you like to see it used?