Opinion

Eastside Rail Corridor: Maximizing opportunities

By Jane Hague and Larry Phillips

After a decade of work, King County and our regional partners have an unprecedented opportunity to provide transportation and recreational connections to our East and South King County communities.

Stretching from Renton to Woodinville, in an area already confined geographically between water and mountains, the 42-mile Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) is a priceless public passageway. Now that its final acquisition has been completed, we must ensure that the region succeeds in maximizing its value and usage for the benefit of all King County residents.

Acquisition of the corridor means the possibility of creating a north-south public transportation corridor and turning a patchwork of dozens of small trails into a regional system. Imagine riding light rail or a commuter train down this corridor and completely avoiding the snarling I-405 traffic. Imagine a future where you can not only bicycle east from the Burke-Gilman trail through serene farmlands and wine country, but continue north to the lovely Snohomish County trails or go south through the key economic centers and charming suburbs.

Acquisition of this corridor represents incredible partnerships between both public entities and public and private stakeholders. At King County, we have determined that a regional planning process will be critical for properly coordinating plans between the public and private entities that have a legal stake in the county’s portion of this corridor: King County, Sound Transit, the cities of Kirkland and Redmond, and Puget Sound Energy.

This regional group will create a work program and outreach process to acquire input from the public as well as all of the jurisdictions located along the corridor.

A key outcome will be coordination and cooperation of corridor use for the betterment of our community and the taxpayers who will contribute to all of the potential uses. After all, future funding to pay for trail, transit, and utility infrastructure will all come from the same taxpayers and ratepayers. So, let’s make sure that we keep those costs as low as possible through good coordination.

We are known as a region of highly educated and innovative people who provide for a vibrant local economy. Thanks to regional cooperation, we now have a flagship acquisition to underscore our regional image.

We are planting the seeds for unmatched regional transportation connections and recreational opportunities to meet future population growth throughout King County. Let’s work together on a plan for bringing to fruition a corridor of our collective dreams. Let’s ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a wonderful array of travel options through dense urban centers and beautiful open spaces.

Please join us in making this vision of the Eastside Rail Corridor a reality.

Jane Hague is Vice Chair of the Metropolitan King County Council and represents Bellevue and Kirkland. Larry Phillips is Chair of King County’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee and a member of the Sound Transit Board.

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