To: Kirkland City Council & Sound Transit
We are writing in regard to the potential use of a portion of the CKC/ERC (Cross Kirkland Corridor/Eastside Rail Corridor) for motorized vehicle transportation. We understand that the City of Kirkland intends to make recommendations to Sound Transit for the November 2016 ST3 ballot that include bus or light rail commuter traffic. The recommendation apparently is in keeping with the City's vision of the corridor not only for recreational purposes but also as part of a regional transportation plan.
As a neighbor of the CKC we are interested to hear both the City's and RAC's analysis of the impact that motorized vehicles will have on the properties and residences most adversely affected. There are hundreds of homes and businesses which adjoin the CKC. The negative impact of vehicular traffic on those who live, work and play near the CKC would be immense.
We have owned and resided at our property in Houghton for 30 years. The existence of the railway near our home has always been a bit of a concern but has had very little impact on our enjoyment of the property. This is due to the very light use of the corridor over those years. Prior to the removal of the old rails, freight trains would occasionally travel the line but at a very low speed (I believe they were restricted to 15 miles per hour). For several years we somewhat enjoyed the novelty of the dinner train passing by. Again, infrequently and at very low speed.
Past use of the rail line seems to have had very little impact on adjoining property owners because trains ran upon a track located near the center of the right of way. That track location allowed substantial set back from residences. A rendering of the location of the proposed bus route that we have seen appears to have busses traveling right up to the easterly boundary of the right of way. If that plan were to be implemented there would be absolutely no set back or buffering between the bus traffic and adjoining homes. There are a few properties in our immediate neighborhood that would have buses passing literally only feet away from their home.
With the recent improvement of a portion the right of way as a walking / biking trail we have thoroughly enjoyed the recreational aspect of the CKC. The CKC is now considered one of the many open space gems that help to make Kirkland such a desirable suburb in which to live. The advent of light rail or bus servie on the corridor would turn it into a heavily traveled commuter line. What is the anticipated volume of commuter traffic on the line? How often would the train / bus pass by and at what speed? Even electric vehicles such as th BRT will create noise pollution and impact view, safety and privacy.
If bus or light rail is allowed now, what will come next?
Over the years we have observed and participated in discussions relative to the viability of using the right of way for motorized transportation purposes. Inevitably there is talk of the high number of at grade crossings over the many miles of right of way. How do you keep the commuter line viable when stops are frequent not only for pick and drop off stations but for the many street crossings? Those who commute by automobile or buses along with those attempting to move goods and render services throughout Kirkland will face additional delays at already busy intersections such as 6th St., NE 116th and NE 124th just to name a few. We are sure the City and RAC have considered this issue. We would like to hear your plan to mitigated the inevitable delays that will be created.
As we walk the trail we see many posted signs warning of adjacent environmentally sensitive areas. If there are truly environmentally sensitive areas in the right of way I assume a major concern is natural habitat. How would the habitat be prorected if the CKC is further developed? What about run off created by further development with what we assume will be impervious surface? There are wet lands all along the way. How will they be preserved? This corridor is within a half mile of Lake Washinton. Has there been an EIS completed? We all know the negative impact on streams and lakes created by surface water runoff.
It seems to us that creating a high volume, high speed commuter corridor along the right of way is a land use issue. Prior to making a recommendation to Sound Transit, we believe changing the use of the corridor from its historic, rarely used freight line to busy commuter line must include a land use action process.
The CKC is now considered by many as having a very positve impact on our community. It's an absolutely great use of public space. Kirkland is a town known for its attention to public places and should be very proudof having created the walking / biking trail on the CKC. Pedestrian and bicycle use has been tremendous. People from around the region now come to Kirkland to walk and ride the "trail". Every week day morning and afternoon we see dozens of Lakeview Elementary students and their parents walk the trail to and from school. Their safety on the trail is of paramount concern. How will trail users from both the east and west side of the right of way access the trail as trains and busses impede pedestrian crossing. How many of us will continue to be as excited about the trail when we have to compete with buses or trains for access.
There are far more viable and less impactful solutions to our transportation issues than ruining this wonderful park that Kirkland had created. People cry out for more public open space yet the City seems to think it a good idea to spoil something special. I don't hear Redmond or Bothell recommending that the Burke Gilman or East Lake Sammamish trail be used for commuter rail or bus.
Please ... don't ruin a good thing.
Rich Jones and Janet Kelley-Jones