Prospects are good for expanding regional trails in King County

Here’s what’s coming down the line, with legal obstacles cleared for the East Lake Sammamish Trail and the Eastside Rail Corridor.

On August 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed decisions in two cases that impact East King County trails. Their holdings smooth the path ahead for regional trails, including the East Lake Sammamish Trail and the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC), and may benefit expanding and connecting additional railbanked corridors in the region.


As growing cities like Sammamish are choked by congestion and are seeking solutions to improve mobility, regional trails can’t come online soon enough to provide residents better options to get where they want to go. That’s why Cascade is advocating for the transformation of former rail corridors like the East Lake Sammamish Trail and Eastside Rail Corridor to help meet the needs of our growing region.  Old railways like the ERC can become multi-use corridors where trail, transit, and utilities co-exist to support vibrant communities—and for people to connect to commerce, jobs, and each other.

Related: Nearly 14 miles of the 42-mile corridor are open in 2018. Join us on September 8 to celebrate the opening of the latest 4 mile segment, connecting Renton and Bellevue along the Eastside Rail Corridor. RSVP to join Cascade and community leaders.

With robust regional trail networks, people biking, walking, or using wheelchairs have more  freedom to explore their community without the added expenses or hassle of getting stuck in traffic...and everyone benefits from the improvement to public health that comes with active transportation. With the coming expansion of light rail to the east side of Lake Washington, people will soon have even more options to move around.


The 9th Circuit Court upheld previous rulings for Hornish vs. King County and affirmed that railbanking preserves the width and integrity of a corridor. This is good news for fans of rails-to-trails conversion, affirming that multi-modal trails like the Eastside Rail Corridor hold the same rights to the corridor as a railway, and that King County’s property rights are not affected by claims or payouts at the federal level to neighbors. Simply put, the Hornish decision means that regional trail projects will continue to progress as planned

So while the East Lake Sammamish Trail has been plagued by legal challenges, we’re nearing the finish line. The last segment of trail will be constructed soon, pending results of the Shoreline Hearing Board, and people will finally be able to navigate from Issaquah and the City of Sammamish to transit hubs in Redmond.

It’s unfortunate that as an owner of railbanked corridors, King County is often on the hook for arduous, costly, and behind-the-scenes legal work to defend the integrity of the corridor. Yet the vision remains strong--and attainable. In affirming the width of the railbanked corridor, the most recent holdings indicate that we’re on track to finish the ELST and build the ERC, cornerstones of a functional, connected, and safe regional trail system for users of all stripes.


Cascade is a trusted voice in policy and advocacy, and our work has resulted in over one billion dollars in new biking and walking investments statewide. Donor contributions allow us to build and maintain momentum for the Eastside Rail Corridor, East Lake Sammamish Trail, and other regional trails.

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Claire Martini's picture
Claire Martini