Blog Capacity Crowd Joined in Hope for Future of Eastside Rail and Trail Corridor

Deb Hubsmith and Andy Peri, both of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

The Cascadia Center for Regional Development (Discovery Institute’s transportation center) yesterday hosted two events — a corridor tour and a dinner policy discussion — focused on the future of the rail and trail corridor on Seattle’s Eastside.
As 2009 closed, the Port of Seattle and BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) reached an agreement that allows the 42-mile corridor running from Renton, Wash., in the south to Snohomish, Wash., in the north to remain intact. Under the end-of-year agreement, King County, Sound Transit, the City of Redmond, Puget Sound Energy, and the Cascade Water Alliance will purchase segments of the corridor.
It has long been Cascadia Center’s view that the Eastside corridor can accommodate a trail and commuter rail. The purchase agreement represents an unprecedented opportunity for the future development of transportation in the corridor — a corridor that once operational could serve as an example of smart and sustainable growth with opportunities for transit oriented development at station sites.
This issue — and especially lessons that Seattle’s Eastside can learn from those in Sonoma-Marin (Calif.) who navigated a similar opportunity in their backyard — was the focus of discussion for most of the day on Wednesday for a group of local leaders and concerned citizens attending two Cascadia Center-sponsored events. From 3:00-6:00 p.m., a group of 45 people packed a tour bus to examine first-hand the corridor, going as far north as Woodinville and making stops along the way to see what the corridor looks like and envisioning what the future could hold for sustainable growth along a fully functioning rail and trail corridor.
After the corridor tour, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., in a dinner program held at the Bellevue Club in downtown Bellevue, Wash., a packed room heard from Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, and absorbed critical “lessons learned” presentations from Andy Peri and Deb Hubsmith of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. Both Mr. Peri and Ms. Hubsmith were for years intricately involved with the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) train and pathway process in California. (SMART will bring passenger train service to Marin and Sonoma Counties plus a 70-mile bicycle and pedestrian pathway/route that will run from Larkspur to Cloverdale.) Mr. Peri had a leadership role in running the grassroots election campaigns in 2006 and 2008, which was victorious in Nov. 2008. Ms. Hubsmith worked for more than a decade on the development and campaign for the SMART train and pathway, which was approved by 69.5 percent of voters as Measure Q in Nov. 2008; $91 million was included in Measure Q for a 70 mile bikeway parallel to the train.
The day closed with a community response panel, on which Chuck Ayres of the Cascade Bicycle Club, seemed to sum up the mood of cooperation that everyone — despite ongoing, legitimate differences in viewpoint and approach — is seeking when he indicated that although there are many, many details to continue to be weighed, ultimately he is in favor of rail with trail. It’s a worthy goal, and the one that Cascadia Center, and many others, hopes gets one notch closer to reality as all of the diverse groups involved in making the decision continue to reach for a consensus.