Woodinville will buy a 2.6-mile stretch of the Eastside Rail Corridor from the Port of Seattle for $1.1 million, allowing the city to widen roads and improve intersections throughout the city.
Buying the rail corridor will make it easier for the city to construct future road projects, City Manager Richard Leahy said, including the widening the Sammamish River bridge, widening the trestle at the entrance to the city, widening Woodinville-Snohomish Road, extending 135th Avenue NE from NE 175th Street to Little Bear Creek Parkway, and improving the Mill Place intersection near Target. It also makes it easier for the city to plan and control passenger rail, excursion rail, freight rail and trails (King County has already purchased a trail easement.)
The Eastside Rail Corridor runs for 42 miles between Renton and Snohomish, including an 8-mile spur between Woodinville and Redmond. In 2009, the Port of Seattle purchased the rail corridor from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway, and the Port has sold portions of the corridor to cities, counties, Sound Transit and utilities.
At last week’s City Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to buy a 100-foot rail corridor that extends from approximately the intersection of NE 175th Street and Woodinville-Redmond Road to the King/Snohomish county line. Segments of the rail corridor in Woodinville south of that intersection have been sold to King County, and the corridor north of Woodinville has been sold to Snohomish County.
Last year, Woodinville came into conflict with the Port of Seattle when the city wanted to widen the bridge on NE 175th Street over the Sammamish River. Because the widened bridge would have crossed the railroad’s right-of-way, Woodinville needed an easement from the Port of Seattle, which the Port wasn’t willing to provide. Woodinville’s buying the rail corridor solves that problem, and the city plans to build a second bridge south of the current bridge, for a total of four lanes of traffic crossing the river.
Owning the railroad will also allow Woodinville to widen the trestle over 131st Avenue NE. Leahy said the city would remove the abutment in the center of the trestle in order to add more lanes.
On Woodinville-Snohomish Road, the city hopes to make the road four to five lanes wide from the north city limits to the south city limits, and improve the intersections at NE 190th Street, NE 195th Street and NE 200th Street.
The railroad tracks also cause congestion at the “monster intersection” at Mill Place, Woodinville-Snohomish Road and Little Bear Creek Parkway, Leahy said. Once the city purchases the rail corridor, it could put a roundabout at that intersection.
“We’ve actually found a roundabout that works with railroad tracks almost to an identical situation like this,” Leahy said. “We’re actually looking at that very favorably right now, that it might be a better solution than what we have out there right now.”
Besides the benefits Leahy mentioned, Councilmember Les Rubstello said the city would benefit from “the ability to clean it up.” He said making Little Bear Creek Parkway more attractive might encourage more business there.
“I think none of us can imagine what it will look like to have, even if it was just grass with no trees, mown grass, without holes, without Dumpsters, without cranes parked there,” Rubstello said. “I mean, it’s a park. It’s a linear park through town.”
Councilmember Scott Hageman suggested turning the railroad tracks into a “multimodal transportation corridor” for mountain bikers and pedestrians to use.
“For that price, to get that amount of control, I think that’s a fair price,” Hageman said.