King County Parks is currently in the process of removing railroad tracks in Woodinville as part of the 42-mile Eastrail that runs from Renton to Snohomish.
The new section of trail in Woodinville will continue north from the end of the Cross Kirkland Corridor to Northeast 145th Street near Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. From there, the city of Woodinville plans to construct a trail crossing with connections to the Sammamish River Trail.
“This trail is really coming alive for Woodinville,” said Katherine Hollis, executive director of Eastrail Partners. “We're going to be able to have people using it this summer.”
Hollis presented her vision for the Eastrail during a Woodinville Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday, Jan. 21. She said Eastrail Partners, a nonprofit with strong public-private partnerships, aims to bring together the diverse communities and businesses of the Eastside through connections to transit options, employment hubs and green space.
“For businesses, this is a way for employees to get around and for customers to access storefronts,” Hollis said.
Built on a historical railroad line, the Eastrail will provide opportunities for non-motorized recreation and transportation through the communities of Woodinville, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton and Snohomish. Currently, 13 miles of the trail are open for use.
The Wilburton Trestle in Bellevue, which was built in 1904, will be restored to create a centerpiece of the trail with views of the Eastside. The wooden railway trestle was previously used by the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, a popular excursion from Renton to Woodinville and back.
The attraction officially shut down in 2007, allowing the Port of Seattle to acquire the rail corridor. From there, Hollis said, various private and public entities bought sections of the 42-mile corridor. King County owns just over 16 miles of the Eastrail, the most of any other partner.
Hollis said Sound Transit is developing light rail adjacent to sections of the Eastrail. The new Blue Line will have multiple stations in Bellevue and Redmond, opening for service in 2023.
As part of the Eastrail, the Redmond Central Connector includes 2.3 miles of paved trail through downtown Redmond and will eventually join up with the Sammamish River Trail. Hollis said the section of trail in Redmond will be essential for residents in Woodinville, Bothell and Kenmore who work in other employment sectors on the Eastside.
One part of the Woodinville section yet to be developed is the State Route 202 trestle, which continues to be a state priority for the city. Once funding is secured and the trestle base is widened, work on the northern trail segment will begin.
“There's already been a lot of investment in the trail and a whole lot of energy and momentum going into this,” she said. “It's been a really exciting first year to be able to build and capitalize on an effort that so many people, and so many entities, have put into already.”
The Eastrail received substantial corporate support this fall with REI Co-op and Facebook each investing $1 million into the project’s infrastructure at the Northup Way Connector in Bellevue. In conjunction with this announcement, King County Councilwoman Claudia Balducci was able to find another half of a million dollars in county funds to complete the estimated $2.5 million project.
According to a news release from King County, over $100 million has already been invested in purchasing and improving the former rail corridor. However, millions of dollars are still needed for the trail to reach its potential as a multifaceted community asset.
“Eventually, we're going to have a trail that connects all the way into Snohomish, and then that will connect all the way to trails in Darrington,” she said. “This is a really important sign of a regional trail network. It's one of our more developed trails as we think about connections to other trails.”