- About Us
Cross Kirkland Corridor rail removal halts, faces federal lawsuit | Update
The city of Kirkland was served a federal lawsuit on April 1, which seeks to stop the removal of rail tracks and ties along the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
The Ballard Terminal Railroad Company filed the lawsuit at the Federal District Court in the Western District of Washington.
“Our argument and hopes were that Kirkland could be convinced to change their minds, leave the railroad tracks alone, but they completely rejected that idea,” said Byron Cole, the founder and principal of the Ballard Terminal Railroad Company. “They just don’t want to hear it.”
Cole’s company has collaborated with the Eastside Rail Community, the company seeking to create an excursion train from Snohomish to Woodinville with hopes to bring it to Kirkland.
The Ballard Terminal Railroad Company runs freight trains on a short line in Ballard, which connects to the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway. The company also owns a short line east of Puyallup.
“The Eastside is the poster child for a need of better transportation modes,” said Cole, who said he is not directly involved in the lawsuit. “It just seems worth it to us to try to convince Kirkland to keep the rail in place to use it for freight, but it’s also in the right place for passenger operations.”
The Cross Kirkland Corridor is 5.75 miles of the 44-plus mile Eastside Rail Corridor. Apart from the segments owned by the City of Kirkland and the City of Redmond, the Eastside Rail Corridor was recently acquired by King County.
In addition to the injunction, Ballard filed a petition with the federal Surface Transportation Board, which seeks to reactivate the Eastside Rail Corridor for freight service from Woodinville to Bellevue.
City Manager Kurt Triplett said in a community letter that “these actions make it necessary for the city to carefully evaluate Ballard’s claims and to consider our legal options.”
The city has already hired a contractor to remove the rails to make way for an interim trail along the corridor. The removal was anticipated to begin this month with construction of the interim trail to begin this fall.
“We intend to keep with the community’s desire to allow use of the trail as soon as possible,” Triplett said in the letter, “even if it requires us to put our plans on hold as we take time to better understand the impacts of the lawsuit and petition.”
While Cole didn’t go into detail of the specific federal laws in question, he said there are certain federal laws that describe how to go about railways when they’re not in use.
“Those tracks are where they need to be,” Cole said, who noted they’ve gone to the Kirkland City Council to voice opposition before. “We’re disappointed we’ve had to go this route.”
Cole said the Ballard short line once had the same issue with the Seattle City Council and the bicycle community but were able to compromise and help create design plans for a trail alongside the railway.
Now, if the city will reconsider, Cole said his company could build the sub-grade for a trail next to the tracks for free. He anticipates Bellevue’s upcoming construction boom will provide enough dirt to create the sub-grade. And instead of using Interstate 405 to transport the dirt, rail cars could be an option.
Triplett is hopeful the Federal District Court will rule on the injunction case in the coming weeks, and that the Surface Transportation Board decision regarding Ballard’s request to reactivate the corridor as a freight corridor will also be expedited.
“We are confident that Kirkland will ultimately be able to carry out our citizens’ vision for the corridor,” said Triplett. “However, there are many complexities to this issue and [the community’s] understanding and patience is appreciated.”
Updates will be released through the city’s email notification subscriber lists and posted to the Cross Kirkland Corridor webpage at www.kirklandwa.gov/crosskirklandcorridor.
For specific questions, contact Pam Bissonnette, director of the Public Works Department, at 425-587-3802 or email@example.com.