The Ballard Terminal Railroad Company’s request to return rail service to an 11.2-mile portion of the Eastside Rail Corridor between Bellevue and Woodinville has been denied, officially eliminating a threat to trails such as the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
The Surface Transportation Board, a federal agency that settles railway disputes, said in a ruling issued Tuesday that the company’s request would be denied because it did not have “credible evidence of demand for freight rail service” or the “financial wherewithal” to reactivate rail service on the former BNSF rail line path.
The Ballard rail company’s attempt to reinstate freight service didn’t stop the City of Kirkland from setting up a 5.75-mile interim trail on what is now called the Cross Kirkland Corridor. The city ripped up old train tracks after the rail company’s request for an injunction against the City of Kirkland failed.
The city says the gravel-paved interim trail could be finished as soon as next month. Although the trail isn’t officially complete and there are detours around some construction areas, hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists are already using the path.
The owner of land onto which Google is growing its Kirkland campus, SRM Development, is expected to install 16-foot wide concrete pavement on the portion of the Cross Kirkland Corridor running past a 180,000 square-foot Google building now under construction.
SRM Development has submitted plans to build several public amenities next to the trail: a basketball court, beach dunes with a volleyball court, a children’s play structure, a meandering second trail, resting and gathering spots.
Plans for other parts of the 11.2-mile portion of the trail the rail company was interested in are less concrete. The Bellevue City Council has discussed ways it could work with King County on connecting to the Cross Kirkland Corridor with a similar trail in Bellevue.
The entire Eastside Rail Corridor stretches 42 miles through Renton, Newcastle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Maltby and Snohomish. The possibility that rail service could return to the corridor always exists on portions the Port of Seattle has sold to King County, Sound Transit, and the cities of Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville. The National Trails System Act, however, allows public entities aware of that risk to turn abandoned rail paths into trails.
A master plan for the Cross Kirkland Corridor that passed in June leaves space for potential rail service, while developing a trail on of the rest of it.