If you live, work, or play in Kirkland, you’re probably aware of the railroad corridor that runs north to south through the center of the City. You may have used the corridor for a short or long walk or experienced it on a mountain bicycle. The Corridor passes through several neighborhoods, goes by several schools, and is adjacent to some older industrial areas that are a reminder when freight trains used the line to service local industries. If you walk the Corridor, you can step off “the beaten path” to reach shopping and other services. Along the Corridor, you experience “peek-a-boo” views of Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline. The Corridor experience is only going to get better.
One of the many unique features about the Cross Kirkland Corridor is its connection to two transportation hubs.
The South Kirkland Park & Ride, which rests at the south end of the Corridor, has been transformed into transit-oriented, mixed use project.
Toward the northern city limits, the Corridor extends into the Totem Lake Business District, a designated Regional Urban Center. The Totem Lake Business District is home to Kirkland’s largest employer, Evergreen Hospital and Medical Center, and is the focus of significant economic revitalization
. When the City commissioned the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to study the Totem Lake Business District
(PDF) and to make recommendations on how best to stimulate redevelopment, ULI encouraged the City to acquire and develop the abandoned railroad corridor into a regional trail and transform Totem Lake Park into a destination.
With the passage of the parks property levy (Proposition 2) in 2012, funding was available to complete a Master Plan
for the long term development of the Corridor. In early 2015, the CKC Interim Trail
opened with compact crushed gravel running the length of the Corridor.
Setting Our Sights Early on the Corridor
In the early 1990’s, the City's Park Board
envisioned a Cross Kirkland Trail that would be parallel to the active rail line. Complications with the railroad stalled that vision. In response to the potential sale of the Eastside Rail Corridor by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway
, the Puget Sound Regional Council completed a study that found benefit in keeping the Corridor in public ownership.
To further Kirkland’s vision of the benefits of the Corridor to Kirkland, the City’s 2009 Active Transportation Plan
identified the Cross Kirkland Trail as the highest priority active transportation project.
In late 2009, the Eastside Rail Corridor came into public ownership when Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway sold it to the Port of Seattle. In response to this transaction, the City of Kirkland Transportation Commission
initiated an extensive public involvement effort to develop an Interest Statement
about the Eastside Rail Corridor. City Council approved the Interest Statement in April 2011. The Interest Statement envisions a multi-modal trail and is intended to guide evaluation of proposals for corridor development.
In June 2014, the City Council adopted the Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan
Purchase of the Kirkland Segment
When faced with the possibilities that the Eastside Rail Corridor might be sold off piecemeal, in late 2011, Kirkland negotiated an extremely favorable price ($5 million) for this “prime real estate” that has so much to offer the Kirkland community and beyond. Much of the price ($4 million) was made through an interfund loan which must be repaid within three years. One option to repay the loan is to reprioritize existing capital projects or to issue bonds that would be repaid through existing revenues over a 20-year period. The other $1 million will be paid from a utility fund designated for surface water projects along the Corridor.
One of the first steps in Kirkland taking ownership was for the Port of Seattle to surplus the segment, which it did through adopting a resolution. The resolution was first introduced at a February 28, 2012 public hearing held at Kirkland City Hall
and later adopted on April, 2012
On April 13, 2012, the City closed the deal with the Port of Seattle and celebrated becoming the owners of an “opportunity of a life time.”
Transforming the Corridor
Since taking ownership of the 5.75 mile segment in April 2012, the City turned its focus on short term and long term development goals and to collaborate with community groups to help make the visions of the Cross Kirkland Corridor a reality. One of the efforts includes developing a Master Plan. In March, 2012 the City Council directed the City's Transportation Commission
to work on developing a master plan for the Cross Kirkland Corridor. The Commission built on its 2009 Eastside Rail Corridor Interest Statement
(PDF) as a foundation for the plan. Following extensive public involvement, in June 2014, the City Council adopted the Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan.