King County announced this week that they’ll open a mile of trail between Kirkland and Bellevue and four miles between Newcastle Beach Park and Gene Coulon Park – all by early 2018. These two segments chip away at the northern and southern ends of the 11 miles of Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) between Kirkland and Renton. The announcement means the goal the EGA is advocating for – of Kirkland to Renton connectivity on the ERC by 2020 – is in closer sight.
There are still some hurdles to jump – none bigger than fully funding a retrofit of the historic Wilburton Trestle. For the EGA, the trestle is the linchpin to Kirkland to Renton connectivity, and as the largest single unfunded segment, the trestle has been our top funding priority over the last year. Thanks to a broad coalition effort this legislative session, the State transportation budget contains $2.5M towards retrofitting the Wilburton Trestle. This brings the total secured funding to date for the trestle to $7.5M. Initial funding was secured during the 2016 budget season, and together funding represents the culmination of many months of advocacy efforts by EGA members non-profits, public agencies, and private sector organizations.
The largest wooden railroad trestle in the Pacific Northwest, the Wilburton Trestle spans the Kelsey Creek Valley near Mercer Slough. The trestle is slated to be an iconic stop along the ERC once it’s retrofitting to carry a bike/ped trail atop the trestle. It’s also the only way to connect Bellevue and Renton on the ERC. With panoramic views of the eastside skyline, including downtown Bellevue and into the I-90 Mountains to Sound Greenway open space, the Wilburton Trestle will be one of the most frequently travelled parts of the future Eastside Rail Corridor trail – for fun and functional reasons.
The 1-mile ERC segment from South Kirkland Park & Ride to Northup Way in Bellevue will be a short but mighty piece of trail. Once complete, people will be able to ride not just between north-Bellevue and Kirkland (Kirkland opened the almost 6 miles of trail they own as a packed gravel trail in 2015, and named it the Cross Kirkland Corridor), but also west to Seattle and east to Redmond. Thanks to the new Northup Way bike lanes and the SR-520 bridge trail, the ride from Kirkland to Seattle’s Montlake area will soon be possible entirely via designated bike facilities (and all on protected trail with the exception of on street bike lanes on Northup).
The forthcoming 4 miles between Newcastle Beach Park and Gene Coulon Park will bring to life another aspect of the ERC: By connecting these two parks and tying into the existing Lake Washington Loop Trail, the ERC in this location will add a new and exciting option for the many groups of families, friends and other types of recreational riders looking to spend time outdoors and be active.
So, while you’ll have put biking across the Wilburton Trestle on your to-do list for 2020, early next year you can get a flavor of the new eastside connections the ERC is forging.
The Eastside Rail Corridor runs 42 miles north/south in east King County (and into Snohomish County), roughly parallel to the I-405 highway route. Check out this map to learn more about the route. Converting the abandoned Eastside Rail Corridor rail right-of-way into a bike/ped trail will be transformational, in terms of the recreation, transportation, and open space benefits.
The corridor will connect Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue and Renton by protected bike trail, and make active transportation a viable option for users of all ages and abilities. With several local and regional transit stations (including light rail) planned for and already located on or nearby the ERC, it will also help connect communities to transit on foot and by bike.
The many neighborhoods and communities through which the corridor winds will also gain from new recreation opportunities right on their doorstep. The trail will effectively create a multi-mile linear park, inviting activity and new community interactions by tying the eastside together in new ways.