Prospects are good for expanding regional trails in King County

Here’s what’s coming down the line, with legal obstacles cleared for the Eastside Rail Corridor.

On August 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed decisions in two cases that impact East King County trails. Their holdings smooth the path ahead for regional trails, including the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC), and may benefit expanding and connecting additional railbanked corridors in the region.

REGIONAL TRAILS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR OUR GROWING REGION

As growing cities are choked by congestion and are seeking solutions to improve mobility, regional trails can’t come online soon enough to provide residents better options to get where they want to go. That’s why the Eastside Greenway Alliance is advocating for the transformation of the Eastside Rail Corridor to help meet the needs of our growing region.  Old railways like the ERC can become multi-use corridors where trail, transit, and utilities co-exist to support vibrant communities—and for people to connect to commerce, jobs, and each other.

With robust regional trail networks, people biking, walking, or using wheelchairs have more  freedom to explore their community without the added expenses or hassle of getting stuck in traffic...and everyone benefits from the improvement to public health that comes with active transportation. With the coming expansion of light rail to the east side of Lake Washington, people will soon have even more options to move around.

RAILBANKED TRAILS ROLLING ON AHEAD

The 9th Circuit Court upheld previous rulings for Hornish vs. King County and affirmed that railbanking preserves the width and integrity of a corridor. This is good news for fans of rails-to-trails conversion, affirming that multi-modal trails like the Eastside Rail Corridor hold the same rights to the corridor as a railway, and that King County’s property rights are not affected by claims or payouts at the federal level to neighbors. Simply put, the Hornish decision means that regional trail projects will continue to progress as planned

It’s unfortunate that as an owner of railbanked corridors, King County is often on the hook for arduous, costly, and behind-the-scenes legal work to defend the integrity of the corridor. Yet the vision remains strong--and attainable. In affirming the width of the railbanked corridor, the most recent holdings indicate that we’re on track to finish the ELST and build the ERC, cornerstones of a functional, connected, and safe regional trail system for users of all stripes.