UPDATE: The city has sent Sound Transit an edited version of the draft letter quoted in this article. Please see: (Kirkland Sends Letter to Sound Transit suggesting "Kirkland Compromise").
Sound Transit and Kirkland simply do not see eye to eye. The Kirkland City Council has drafted a letter the Sound Transit Board which is a shocker (the final version of this letter will be posted once available). The letter says clearly that if Sound Transit includes light rail on the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC) as a part of ST3, Kirkland "would have to oppose the ballot measure."
Kudos to the Kirkland City Council.
This was not an easy position for the council to take. The majority of the council is extremely pro-mass transit and wants to support ST3. But as details were leaked about what will likely be put on the ballot in November 2016, it became clear to Kirkland that what ST wants and what is best for Kirkland are two very different things.
One of the plans Sound Transit has includes building rail along the CKC from Totem Lake to Bellevue and possibly out to Issaquah. For over a year, Kirkland has been trying to persuade the Sound Transit Board to entertain Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along the corridor as a less impactful alternative to light rail. The council authorized spending $250,000 to develop a plan for BRT on the CKC which would include a park and trails.
City staff has been selling their plans to the public for months now trying to gain support with Kirkland citizens and with Sound Transit. The results have been mixed at best.
The eastsidecorridor.org group which had championed trail preservation for years was joined by a new Kirkland-based group called SaveOurTrail.org in October 2015 with the mission of educating the public as to the importance of maintaining the natural trail while supporting mass transit along the I-405 corridor. Save Our Trail and other citizen groups are recognized as significant voices influencing the debates surrounding Sound Transit and the CKC.
The city has identified many reasons why light rail is inappropriate on the CKC including high cost, low ridership and safety reasons.
At the March 16 Kirkland City Council meeting, Councilmember Toby Nixon even suggested an alternative route for light rail to connect Totem Lake, Kirkland's designated urban center. Nixon proposed a light rail extension of the Redmond spur which would avoid the CKC altogether. Such innovative alternatives have not been vetted because of the compressed timeframe placed on the ST3 process. Sound Transit seems to be rushing too fast and as a result, we are getting poor options.
This has resulted in the city saying “the wrong transit is worse than no transit on the CKC at this time.”
The Kirkland City Council should be applauded.
Might we suggest the Kirkland City Council take one step further?
The best move for the Kirkland City Council is to join SaveOurTrail.org in preserving the CKC as a 5.75 mile natural greenbelt. This world class amenity connecting our neighborhoods is no place for mass transit. Future generations will thank those protecting nature while simultaneously promoting non-motorized transportation options like walking and biking.
The best move for Sound Transit is to build BRT on the dedicated HOT lanes of I-405.
The message would be clear: keep mass transit off the CKC.
If Sound Transit wants to add mass transit to the Cross Kirkland Corridor, they will get plenty of Kirkland opposition to ST3.