Dozens of citizens, elected officials, and staff from Kirkland, Bellevue, and King County gathered on June 19 for the grand opening and ribbon cutting of a newly opened section of the Eastside Railway Corridor (ERC).
The new section will be known as Jane Hague Way.
The ERC is an effort by King County and several other Eastside municipalities and agencies including the cities of Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Woodinville and Renton as well as Puget Sound Energy and Sound Transit, to craft a trail that would connect to other cities as well as existing trail systems.
Jane Hague Way is a one-mile portion of the ERC that connects the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail with Bellevue’s Spring District and the Washington State Department of Transportation’s SR 520 trail, which runs east to west from the University of Washington to Redmond. This is King County’s first project to open as part of the long-term ERC plan since the county purchased 16.7 miles of corridor in 2013.
The event was held to celebrate the opening of the county’s first portion of the trail, which was named after Jane Hague, former King County Council member and ERC trail supporter. Hague represented District 6 on the council for more than 20 years and was the co-chair of the ERC Regional Advisory Council (RAC). The county council approved a motion to name the segment after her in 2015.
The ERC runs along a former freight railway corridor from Woodinville to Renton once operated by the BNSF Railway Company. David St. John, environmental affairs officer for King County, explained that in 2003, BNSF was looking to sell the railway. Instead of selling off individual pieces of land, the ERC was kept together by a National Trails Act program called “railbanking,” which protects railway corridors when they are being sold or abandoned.
In 2009, the Port of Seattle purchased the ERC and sold interests to the county and cities the corridor runs through. In 2013, St. John said King County closed its purchase of almost 17 miles of the corridor with the intent to work with the cities involved to craft a connected regional trail system. That same year, voters approved a parks levy that allowed King County to begin developing a master plan for the trail.
The RAC was also formed to get the various stakeholders to collaborate in creating and acting on a vision of multi-purpose use for the trail.
Jane Hague Way is open, but is not in its final stage yet. St. John said the trail development process starts with removal of the railway itself, before it is replaced with a gravel trail. The rail removal and gravel treatment was budgeted by the parks division when the county acquired its sections of the ERC.
Alongside the rail removal and gravel implementation of the trail property, King County is also planning funding for the next step to develop the trails into fully paved pathways.
St. John said this year’s focus is to get the interim segments open while also moving forward with design for other areas such as the Wilburton area north to SR 520. The county plans to open a four-mile portion of the trail from Renton’s Gene Coulon Park to Newcastle Beach Park in Bellevue, later this year.