Kirkland moves forward with plans to tear out train tracks SNOHOMISH - The city of Kirkland opened construction bids last week for a project that will remove an almost six-mile section of railroad tracks which Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak said will derail her city’s long-term plans for the 44-mile rail corridor that runs through several cities.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Guzak said. “Kirkland is really nearsighted in not listening to our concerns and taking that rail out.”
David Godfrey, Kirkland’s transportation engineering manager, said the city is excited to be moving forward with its plans to replace the tracks with a paved bicycle and pedestrian trail.
The project to tear out the tracks and build a trail system is helping Kirkland reach a 2011 City Council goal. The city wants people to be able to use this section of tracks while serving the transportation needs of Kirkland.
“Each of these interests is served by moving forward with a trail now, none are served by waiting,” Godfrey said. “The corridor has been available for several years and yet no proposals have come forward and it’s unclear what we would be waiting for or how long we might be waiting. With our proposal, rather than waiting for something with an unknown time line we are building something we can use now.”
Guzak has been advocating for and working with a group of rail and trail activists, winery owners and businesses that make up the Eastside TRailway Alliance. The group had asked the city of Kirkland to hold off on tearing up its section of tracks.
The group wants to run a tourist train that would shuttle tourists and residents between the city of Snohomish and the wineries of Woodinville. Ultimately, Guzak said, the group wants to add commuter service to and from Bellevue.
Without the cooperation of Kirkland, however, the long-term goal of adding commuter service is much more difficult to accomplish.
The entire rail corridor stretches between Snohomish and Renton and was purchased by the Port of Seattle and sold to various cities. When Kirkland tears up its rail ties, a “hole” will be created.
“For those of us who have a bigger vision, this really messes with our vision,” Guzak said.
The TRailway Alliance asked Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride last month to wait to begin the rail removal project until the group could up with more funding for the project.
Godfrey said Kirkland is committed to a “multiuse vision” of the corridor, which might include reconstructing some of the tracks.
Guzak said once the track is torn up, it’s extremely expensive to rebuild and would take years to accomplish.
Kirkland has set “an aggressive schedule” in order to use part of a $2 million state grant before June 2015. The city’s time line shows April 22 as the earliest date construction could begin.
Guzak said she will continue to move ahead with plans for the tourist train and work hard to seek funding for the project estimated at $6 million.
“Kirkland taking up the rail is really unfortunate,” Guzak said. “In the long-term, we’re in agreement that we’ll have rails and trails, but in the short-term, I’m very disappointed that they’re taking out the rails.”
Guzak said she feels like the “little train that could” some days as she continues to seek funding.
“I’m going to keep working at it,” she said.