Point/Counterpoint: Should the CKC have Rail or BRT, or neither? By David Greschler

Kirkland Views is hosting a series of three online debates about the future of the Cross Kirkland Corridor and public transportation. David Greschler (SaveOurTrail.org) and Dan Ryan (KirklandPlaces.com) will present opposing arguments on these pages. The purpose of this series is to enhance the public understanding of complex issues. Your comments are welcome below each article.

Read the opposing argument here.


David Greschler

David Greschler

If you wonder whether transit will destroy the peace and nature people enjoy on the Trail, this picture – provided this week to Save our Trail by Sound Transit (ST) – should erase any doubts:
 

Click to enlarge.

It illustrates many of the reasons Save Our Trail is against any transit on the trail – rail or buses:

  • Concrete Corridor: This diagram confirms that any transit will completely transform the Trail into a 50-foot swath of concrete. Today the Trail is approximately 10-12 feet wide. Imagine how it will look and feel like when it is five times as wide with concrete. The only thing getting smaller is our natural trail – down to 5 feet! 
  • Safety and Barriers: See the two-foot concrete barrier that runs down the middle of the Trail? That’s because ST knows buses or rail moving at high speeds represent a significant safety issue (especially given that two schools are directly on the Trail).
  • Noise/Light Pollution: Even if they are emissions-free, large moving buses make noise and emit bright lights. Rail adds safety sounds that will create constant ringing along the Trail.
  • Parking: Where will all the people accessing transit park their cars? Even the City, in its letter to ST, isn’t sure: “Sound Transit will need to work with the City of Kirkland to mitigate parking impacts from station locations.” 

This illustration also raises the biggest question of all:

Where have all the trees, wetlands and streams gone?

When tracks were built over 100 years ago, no one worried about environmental impact. Today many rules govern this. In fact, the City of Kirkland is updating these rules, known as the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO).

The CAO requires protective buffers around streams, wetlands and wildlife habitats, which means no building of structures and roads whatsoever. Under the new regulations, these buffers are increasing. For wetlands, this means buffers are now 65 to 300 feet, and streams are 60 to 165 feet.

Does the Trail have wetlands and streams? Oh yes.

The City documented 14 wetlands right along the Trail. Its Master Plan says there are “27 instances where streams meet or cross the corridor.” 

Here are two maps commissioned by the City that outline multiple wetlands and stream areas:

       

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

 

What does this mean for the Trail? 

Large sections, where wetlands and streams alight next to the trail, are simply unbuildable due to the size of buffers. That means regardless of an easement or master plan, ST cannot build on them. Period. 

Can Sound Transit get around these regulations?

Not if they are aware of the issues early in the process. This is why Save Our Trail sent ST an Environmental Letter in mid February documenting the environmental issues. 

They could still try using mitigation. The law states that altering a wetland, stream or buffer is only allowed ifthere is no practicable or feasible alternative development proposal that results in less impact to the buffer.” 

Is there a practicable or feasible alternative? We’ll explore that in the next installment.


Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

Why does David say transit will “transform the trail into a 50-foot swath of concrete”? Take a closer look at that picture. Are those four people walking and biking on a "natural trail - down to 5 feet"?

No, that’s a 17' trail. There’s a wide paved trail for mixed use (preferred by most, and a more comfortable area for bikes or wheelchairs) and a crushed gravel space for runners and walking. Far from making the trail “smaller”, this is best practice. It’s similar to the master planned concept of higher- and lower- speed trails. It's the same trail configuration that the County is proposing on the ERC north and south of Kirkland.

Is Save-Our-Trail opposed to a paved trail in Kirkland too? Why else characterize a paved trail as part of a "50-foot swath of concrete” (as have some other commenters in these pages)?

Click to enlarge.

It’s hard to take Save-Our-Trail rhetoric seriously. Imagine what terrors might happen if a bus were near a school. (Wait, don’t buses go harmlessly by schools today?). Or David’s fear that buses may have bright lights (yes, all vehicles should have lights after dark, even bikes on the trail).

The stalling on environmental grounds is a transparent attempt to slow the corridor’s development. Sound Transit will mitigate environmental impacts and leave the natural areas around the corridor as well or better than today.

The future trail on the CKC will be paved and wider and more comfortable than today. The interim trail is great, but not designed to accommodate everybody who will use it when joined up to the regional trails system.

Getting design right is important. That’s why the City has engaged closely with Sound Transit and regional trail planners. Working together constructively, the trail will be even better than today.