The Eastside is going to get a bicycle and pedestrian trail that will be the envy of the trail users throughout the region. Last Tuesday, the plan to build a Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) trail took a step forward.
We were not there, well, because it was in Bellevue, but luckily Seattle Bike Blog‘s Tom Fucoloro made the voyage across the floating bridge to get the ERC 411:
King County Executive Dow Constantine and Governor Jay Inslee shared the podium Tuesday to announce $10 million dollars in funding commitments from local, regional, state and private partners to rehab the most difficult and stunning parts of the planned Eastside Trail: The Wilburton Trestle.
The historic trestle towers above local streets and I-405 with sweeping views of the Eastside, including downtown Bellevue. Its value extends even beyond the major walking and biking improvement it promises. Once saved, rehabbed and connected to a complete Eastside Trail from Renton to Woodinville, the trestle will likely become an iconic place in the City of Bellevue.
Come to think of it, the trestle could become Bellevue’s most iconic place. There’s not a lot of competition in this city of generic office towers, generic strip malls, sprawling parking lots, and nondescript subdivisions. I kid. I kid. Bellevue’s okay. It’s got quite the piece of history with the Wilburton Trestle which was built in 1904 by Northern Pacific Railway and “is one of the few remaining structures that were typical of the original transcontinental rail system,” according to the press release. The trestle is nearly 1,000 feet long and rises more than 100 feet above the ground.
“The innovative and iconic Wilburton Trestle project will connect the Eastside like never before, through a multi-use trail corridor,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “I am pleased to announce the state’s intent to provide capital funding for the project, and I can’t wait to come back and be one of the first to cross the trestle when it opens.”
The improvement project–anticipated to be completed in 2020–will convert the trestle into a multipurpose elevated trail that Executive Constantine called “a premier public asset that will provide commuters, cyclists, runners and pedestrians with a spectacular view of the Eastside skyline.”
The ERC Master Plan and EIS is available right here. The Kirkland section–the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail–is already operational on hard-packed gravel. In fact, the trail was made infamous for the Save Our Trail protests that blocked Sound Transit’s plan to use some of the right-of-way for a light rail to Kirkland. Due to those protests, the ST3 package only promises to reach South Kirkland just north of SR-520.
South of I-90, the trail curves toward Lake Washington for a waterfront section that should offer great views across the lake on the way to Renton.
The trail cutting though the Eastside could revolutionize mobility in the area providing a dedicated bicycling and pedestrian north-south corridor for the first time. Many important Eastside destinations, such as Bellevue’s transit center and Google’s Kirkland campus, will be within the trail’s convenient walkshed.
The Seattle Bike Blog hit upon opportunities to speed up completion of the ERC trail and suggested if everything goes smoothly, it could open ahead of the East Link:
For a few years, a section of the trail will be a construction site for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail and Wilburton Station. An interim trail connection through this Sound Transit-owned section could be open as early as 2021, finally connecting the trail into downtown Bellevue. There will need to be a detour around the construction area for a few years.
So if the Wilburton Trestle, I-405 crossing and interim trail improvements are all complete by the time Sound Transit’s trail segment opens, the trail could be almost fully usable in 2021.
For such an ambitious urban trail, that’s not a bad timeline. When completed, the ERC would be a giant leap forward for bicycling in the Eastside complete with a piece of history in the unique WIlburton Trestle centerpiece.
Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.