Op-Ed | How should Kirkland pay for the Eastside Rail Corridor?

Citizen opinion survey provides “quick read” on preferred ways to pay for the “Kirkland Segment”

 

Authored by City of Kirkland Council Members Dave Asher and Amy Walen

 

Kirkland is on a path to buy the “Kirkland Segment” of the Eastside Rail Corridor as a first-step in completing the long-planned cross-Kirkland Trail.  Faced with possibilities that the corridor might be sold off piecemeal to speculators or others, Kirkland negotiated an extremely favorable price ($5 million for 5.75 miles) that will ensure our community can plan the future of nearly 6 miles of prime real estate.  As we go through our “due diligence” investigation prior to completing the purchase, we would like your opinion on preferred ways to pay for the corridor.  Below, is a web page where you can provide your input.

 

In December, the City Council voted unanimously to investigate the purchase because the Corridor is a wise investment in Kirkland’s economy and quality of life.  The segment instantly links many of Kirkland’s schools and parks and will become a region-wide attraction for cyclists and pedestrians of all ages.  Future transit and trail use will help provide alternatives to cars and help relieve congestion on our north-south arterials such as Lake Washington Boulevard and 132nd Avenue NE.  Although the cross-Kirkland trail has long been part of the City’s vision, this is the first time the opportunity to purchase the corridor has ever been available.

 

The corridor  has real value to our economy and property values.  The segment starts in the south in our newly up-zoned Yarrow Bay Business District which we expect to attract jobs and housing due to its strategic location near SR 520. It ends in the Totem Lake business district.  Recently we asked the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to recommend what more Kirkland could do to improve the Totem Lake neighborhood and prepare for a time when the mall is developed.  ULI’s top recommendation called for gaining control and developing the rail corridor as an economic development investment.

 

A senior Google executive also walked part of the corridor recently with Kirkland staff and expressed strong interest in the City’s purchase, saying it would make Kirkland much more attractive as a place for Google to stay and expand.

 

For a price of $5 million, Kirkland would gain control of 5 ¾ miles of corridor that generally is 100 feet wide and remarkably suitable for side-by-side development of pedestrian and bicycle trails, as well as potential for future transit development.  At this stage, we are focused on securing the property.  Plans for development will be undertaken in the future.

 

The Council took action for all these reasons: jobs, health, transportation and quality of life.  Now we need your input.  We will pay for the purchase with an interfund loan that must be repaid within three years. There are trade-offs in any financial arrangement.  Three options to repay the loan have been developed and the City Council would like Kirkland residents to share their preference by taking a three-question online survey at www.kirklandwa.gov/eastsiderailcorridor.  These survey results are not statistically valid but they will give the Council a sense of public sentiment.

 

We appreciate your input by Monday, February 20.