Cross Kirkland commute? Man constructs rail-bike to incite others to think about how to use the corridor
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
June 13, 2012 · 4:16 PM
Many residents have used the railroad corridor that runs north to south through the center of Kirkland for walking to nearby schools or businesses.
Others have enjoyed the views of Lake Washington along the old Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway on a mountain bicycle.
But John Eineigl has stepped off the beaten path and is enjoying the corridor much differently than most.
Last fall, he created out of common parts and materials what he refers to as a rail-bike – “a vehicle for those reclaimed rails that aren’t yet trails.”
The bike, affixed to his wooden contraption with wheels, glides over the old tracks much like a train, only it moves a lot slower, he says.
“It really works,” said Eineigl. “I can travel about half the speed I can with the bike alone.”
He built the rail-bike as a working prototype that gets people thinking about what to do with all the unused rail beds, he said.
How does Eineigl think the city should develop the Cross Kirkland Corridor?
“I am in favor of keeping the rail corridor intact for future light-rail use,” he said. “Once the right-of-way is gone, getting it back is very difficult. Look at the issues Bellevue is having over routing a new route through neighborhoods.”
He said whichever path is taken in the future, the City of Kirkland’s biggest issue will be the high number of times the corridor crosses street traffic – a problem for trains, bikes and pedestrians.
The city is currently addressing these issues and more as it decides what to do with the corridor.
The city purchased ownership of the 5.75 miles of Kirkland’s segment of the Eastside Rail Corridor, called the Cross Kirkland Corridor, from the Port of Seattle for $5 million on April 13. The other portions of the entire 44-mile corridor are owned by the Port of Seattle, which purchased the entire corridor from BNSF in 2009. The City of Redmond purchased a “spur” within its city limits in 2010.
The Kirkland segment is suitable for side-by-side development of pedestrian and bicycle trails, as well as potential for future transit development.
The city is working with the King County Library System and created a survey for people to make suggestions about the potential uses of the corridor.
Some ideas that residents have submitted include connecting the corridor to other trails and paving it, keeping bikes and pedestrians separate, developing a regional light rail and streetcar corridor, and a walking trail.
However, others said they did not want to see the corridor developed for rail use. One participant said that using the trail for mixed-modal transportation is a “prescription for death.”
Another person said there are too many problems associated with using the corridor for light-rail.
“Intersection crossings, parking problems for out-of-area users ... ,” they wrote. “What about all those apartments and condominiums that developers would want to build because of access to light rail. Would it turn our nice little city into something else? Who would benefit in Kirkland?”
Eineigl hopes his rail-bike invention will incite others to think about these kinds of questions as they decide how they would like the city to develop the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
“I am hoping that my idea will inspire other people to make their version of a rail-bike to take over the unused rails, or try a cross country trip on all the unused rails to highlight the lack of investment in rail travel,” he said.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at email@example.com or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).