Lawsuit filed to prevent removal of rails in Kirkland

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

On April 1, Ballard Terminal Railroad (BTRR) filed a federal lawsuit aimed at preventing the City of Kirkland from converting its 5.75-mile section of the 42-mile Eastside Rail Corridor, which passes through that city, into a walking/running/biking trail on the preexisting rail bed.

This would involve the removal of the train tracks.

According to David Godfrey, transportation engineering manager for the city, Kirkland wants to make use of the tracks as soon as possible.

“We feel like [a gravel trail is] what best fits our vision for the corridor,” Godfrey said. “Nobody is coming forward for any kind of use of the rails. … Nobody said ‘here is an actual proposal we have.’”

But the Eastside TRailway Alliance disagrees with Kirkland’s plans.

Karen Guzak, mayor of Snohomish and co-chair of the Alliance, believes that updating the rail line — including the segment in Kirkland — would be more beneficial than a gravel interim trail.

Kirkland has been moving ahead with the gravel trail plan quickly and had planned to remove the tracks in  April.

The filing of the restraining order has put the removal of the tracks on hold.

Ballard Terminal Railroad operates Eastside Rail Freight, a freight carrier operating on a rail segment from Woodinville to Snohomish.

Currently, the corridor is used to transport freight a couple times a week, according to Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center for New Development.

But BTRR has plans to institute freight service between Bellevue and Kirkland.

The Eastside TRailway Alliance also has plans for the corridor that runs from Renton in the south to Snohomish in the north and was once used by the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train.

If Kirkland does not turn its rail segment into a gravel trail, Kathy Cox, excursion train managing director for Eastside Community Rail, hopes that one day an excursion train to the Woodinville wineries will go through that city as well.

“We don’t want Kirkland to build over it,” Cox said. “We want to start the excursion service there, too.”

Eastside Community Rail, supported by the Eastside TRailway Alliance, would sponsor the excursion train.

A hearing in federal court is set for May.

The corridor itself has been around for over 100 years.

Previously owned by The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the rail corridor was purchased by the Port of Seattle in 2009 for $81 million.

The Kirkland segment, called the Cross Kirkland Corridor, was purchased by Kirkland from the Port of Seattle in 2011 for $5 million.

Information from an article written by Sarah DeVleming of the University of Washington News Lab was used in this story.

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