When Jason Chinchilla says he will protect the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) from transit he is either deliberately misleading voters about Kirkland’s ability to prevent it, or he does not understand that Sound Transit already has a transportation easement that was in place when Kirkland bought the CKC that allows them to place transit on the corridor. Nor is he listening to the community’s vision of transit on the CKC that was first proposed by Kirkland’s Transportation Commission in 2010, supported by the Planning Commission, included in the CKC Master Plan which included extensive public outreach, and will be included in the Transportation Master Plan and Comprehensive Plan update that will be adopted in December by the City Council. Each of these documents has significant public involvement including dozens of workshops, public hearings, online open houses, surveys and much more. The majority of the feedback the City received was that most Kirkland residents desire a multi-modal corridor that includes transit in order to relieve congestion on 108th Avenue NE and 6th Street South as well as serve Downtown and the Totem Lake Business District.
The reality is that because of Sound Transit’s transportation easement, transit is coming to the CKC. The only question is who will decide what kind of transit it will be. Right now Sound Transit staff are evaluating a light rail line that would run right down the center of the CKC, eliminating the Interim Trail and leaving only the edges of the CKC for potential future trails. While there are benefits to light rail service, the scale of a surface rail line would significantly change the character and feel of our beloved CKC. And it is also not clear when that light rail service would come. Kirkland can’t wait decades for better transit service. With Google expanding and Park Place and Totem Lake Mall redeveloping, Kirkland needs transit now.
The City Council believed that Kirkland should define our transit future on the CKC, rather than let Sound Transit do it for us. The Council authorized $250,000 to develop concepts for bus rapid transit (BRT) on the CKC that would be more in keeping with Kirkland’s quality of life and which could be built much sooner. The city contracted with a nationally respected firm BRT International that has developed lines throughout the world. In the past few weeks they have developed conceptual engineering and financial plans that show that BRT could be built relatively quickly, could be accomplished in a 30 foot transit envelope to the east of the Interim Trail, would have high ridership, and could be done at a substantially lower cost than light rail. This design would allow over half of the 100 ft. corridor to be available to create a path for people who walk or ride bicycles. BRT International also highlighted that such a bus expressway could serve Metro Transit as well as Sound Transit and make existing bus service more reliable and efficient. Buses are quieter and more flexible than light rail. They can take Kirkland residents to Bellevue, Redmond or Seattle from the CKC. Light rail can only travel where the rails are. Even exhaust fumes will soon be eliminated as 100% electric buses are already entering the market.
I am proud to support the community’s vision for a multi-modal Cross Kirkland Corridor. I believe that vision should be set by Kirkland residents and leaders and not just Sound Transit. I am proud to support bus rapid transit options that are less impactful to Kirkland residents, can start quickly, provide more flexible service and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. I am proud to offer REAL solutions to keep us all moving.