$25 million in federal dollars will nearly complete the funding gap for a segment of Eastrail over I-90 and advance design on the last segment of the trail in Woodinville. (King County)

The planned 42-mile Eastrail bike and pedestrian corridor between Renton and Woodinville got a big boost Monday with the news that $30 million in federal funding is on its way to fill in some of the last remaining funding gaps. The awards, coming via the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant program, were announced by Senator Patty Murray ahead of an official announcement from the Biden Administration later this week. Eastrail as a whole is set to receive close to a third of the total dollars being distributed statewide during this year’s round of annual RAISE grant funding.

Retrofitting the existing I-90 rail bridge will unlock the entire stretch of trail between Renton and Woodinville when it opens. (King County)

A $25 million award will get King County Parks much closer to being able to fully fund construction on the rehabilitation of an existing steel bridge over Interstate 90, the final piece of Eastrail in the city of Bellevue. Though a $10 million funding gap does still remain, this award will keep it on track toward a planned 2030 opening date. Beyond adding the key I-90 crossing, this funding will advance nearly two miles of trail adjacent to it and create a fully connected trail all the way from Gene Coulon Park in Renton to the Sammamish River Trail in Woodinville.

The new I-90 steel bridge is set to feature a 12 foot concrete trail and will open in 2030. (King County)

Another $5 million in RAISE funding will be awarded to the City of Woodinville, to fully fund design, planning, and permitting on the northernmost 2.6 mile segment of Eastrail in King County. In addition to serving Woodinville’s growing downtown, that segment sets up Eastrail for a connection planned in Snohomish County as an extension of the existing Centennial Trail south to the county line. Last summer, Woodinville started preparatory work for the planned trail by digging up the existing rail ties along the former railroad line and next year. Eastrail construction will start through the central part of the city, with an overpass crossing over State Route 202.

Work to remove rail ties on the future Eastrail in Woodinville has been taking place over the last year, with $5 million in RAISE funding set to cover the full cost of designing and permitting the trail. (City of Woodinville)

“This major federal investment will help King County close the Eastrail I-90 gap while building out a shared use path that everyone can enjoy,” Senator Murray said in a statement Monday. “Every inch of progress so far has been thanks to the partnership of so many: nonprofits, local government, local businesses, and — now — the federal government. Expanding these kinds of trails does so much good for our quality of life while also connecting and strengthening local economies — being able to support these important projects is exactly why I created the RAISE grant program in the first place.”

By 2050, 2.3 million people are projected to live within eight miles of the full Eastrail corridor, a population poised to take advantage of a cumulative investment of close to $300 million dollars in trail upgrades, including $19 million in private investment from companies like Amazon and REI.

King County recently revamped its parks rules to ease restrictions on e-bikes and is considering expanding hours of operation with an eye to making trail use much more feasible for daily transportation needs and not just recreation. With these investments and policy changes, Eastrail is set to become an artery of the bike superhighway network in Puget Sound. And with direct connections to the light rail network at places like Bellevue’s Wilburton and Spring District stations, it will be integrated into the transit network as well.

The $30 million dollar grant gets King County within $10 million of filling in the final gap of Eastrail in Bellevue and fully fund design work on the north end of the trail in Woodinville. (King County)

“With the help of our federal partners, we’re making yet another stride in creating a region-wide, climate-friendly transportation network,” King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, a longtime champion of the Eastrail corridor, said Monday. “The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous as we have just opened light rail on the Eastside and the Eastrail NE 8th Street Bridge, recently broken ground on the Wilburton Trestle and will now be able to start work to safely cross I-90, bringing our longtime vision for this 42-mile trail from Woodinville to Renton close to completion. Deepest thanks to the US Department of Transportation for seeing how valuable this trail is to our region and to Eastrail Partners for their help in securing this funding.”

Eastrail will provide a central spine for King County’s trail network, but gaps in Renton mean it will not directly connect to trails in South King. (Dennis Bratland, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Advancing the final gaps of the Eastrail as envisioned will allow King County leaders to turn their attention to other gaps in the county’s trail network, as the renewal of the next six-year county parks levy comes up next year. That work has the potential to connect South King County with East King County, opening up new connections currently lacking, and leveraging the decades of work on corridors like Eastrail so that more of the county can take advantage of those investments.

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the The Urbanist since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. Ryan's writing has appeared in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Bike Portland, and Seattle Bike Blog, where they also did a four-month stint as temporary editor.