Progress Continues on the 42-Mile Eastrail and Eastside Trail Linkages
Opportunities to explore the Eastside by bike are growing with two key segments on the north and south ends of the Eastrail scheduled to be completed this year.
Take a summer spin with us on the Eastrail to learn about the exciting work underway.
The wine country of Woodinville is just a short distance from neighboring Kirkland, but until now bicycling between these communities has been perplexingly difficult. That ride will get easier and safer when a new 2.5-mile stretch of the Eastrail bike and pedestrian trail opens later this year.
King County removed rails from the 2.5-mile segment of railroad corridor in December, and the county hopes to finish resurfacing the trail by late 2021--giving people on bikes a safe and fun route between Kirkland and the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, as well as other tasting rooms in Woodinville’s popular tourist district.
Time to raise a toast to the progress on the Eastrail, a 42-mile multi-use trail under construction that will eventually link five cities and two counties on the eastern side of Lake Washington.
Shown in green, the Eastrail segment between Kirkland and Woodinville will open later this year.
Once the Eastrail is completed, people will be able to pedal from Renton in the south to Woodinville and Snohomish to the north, through bustling Bellevue and Kirkland, and linking to other long-distance regional trails. Eastrail will soon connect with the Sammamish River, SR 520, and the East Lake Sammamish Trail. Much of Eastrail’s spine is in place, with a few short road segments connecting with other regional trails.
Since 2015, a completed Eastrail has been Cascade’s number one Eastside policy priority. Cascade helped motivate political, business, and financial commitments to convert a disused rail corridor into an asset for Eastside communities.
“Its impact on the region’s bikeability will be transformative,” says Vicky Clarke, Cascade’s policy director. “When it’s complete, people who need to get to work, to the doctor’s office or to a school across town will be able to safely do so by bike on a comfortable trail ride.”
Eastrail rolls through Google's Kirkland campus where volleyball courts and green spaces make it a popular gathering spot.
Last Friday, Clarke and I joined dozens of people on bicycles in Kirkland at Google’s corporate campus to learn about progress on the Eastrail--and take a spin to explore some upcoming improvements and linkages. The gathering was organized by Eastrail Partners, a nonprofit coalition that is working with regional governments, businesses, and nonprofits to build momentum for completing the Eastrail.
The Eastrail follows the old Eastside Rail Corridor for most of its length. It stitches together segments of existing trail, including the Cross Kirkland Corridor, where the gathering was held.
One of the recently completed links includes the Willows Road Regional Trail Connection that connects the Cross Kirkland Corridor/ Eastrail to the future northern terminus of the Redmond Central Connector Trail. This new trail segment enables people on bikes to avoid riding on busy 124th Street when pedaling between Kirkland and Redmond.
Another big project underway is the Totem Lake Connector in Kirkland. A bike and pedestrian bridge, the Totem Lake Connector “will provide a seamless connection over our busiest intersection,” says Jay Arnold, Kirkland’s deputy mayor. “Today, people on bikes must cross 10 lanes of traffic to continue their journey on the trail.”
Kirkland officials hope to begin construction on the bridge (click here for a photo of the proposed bridge) next year. “It will remove a big barrier on the Eastrail,” Arnold says.
Following the gathering and speeches from public officials, Katherine Hollis, executive director of Eastrail Partners, and King County Council Member Claudia Balducci led a group ride southward on the Cross Kirkland Corridor to view some coming Eastrail projects. In the future, Eastrail signage will be erected. For the time being, various segments still have signs reflecting the old trail name, the Eastside Rail Corridor Trail.
Cascade pushed to rebrand the Eastside Rail Corridor as the Eastrail, and worked to secure millions of dollars of funding for the trail in the King County Parks Levy. Cascade and partners also worked to get business and community leaders together to identify new private, state and federal funding opportunities that built momentum for the formation of Eastrail Partners in 2019.
Hollis speaks at the location of the future Northup Way Connector that will link to the SR 520 Trail.
Our first stop on the ride with Hollis and Balducci was the site of the proposed Northup Way Connector that would link the Eastrail to the SR 520 Trail that runs along Northup Way and connects the Eastside to Seattle over the 520 Bridge. Accessing the Eastrail, which runs beneath a Northup Way overpass, from the SR 520 Trail now requires riding on the street for a short stretch. This new connector would make a safe connection between the two.
REI and Facebook each committed $1 million last year to building this short connector, with another $500,000 from King County. Construction will hopefully begin next spring and be completed by fall of 2022, Hollis says. A dirt path already marks the general location of the proposed connection ramp.
The red dot marks the location of the futue connection between the Eastrail and SR 520 Trail.
While not part of the Eastrail, another big project was recently completed on the SR 520 Trail: the opening of a tunnel that allows people to bike, walk or roll under a busy intersection beneath NE 40th St. The tunnel improves safety and reduces travel times as people no longer must wait for the traffic signal to cross through the intersection. Watch a video of the tunnel.
Location where a tunnel on the 520 trail passes beneath a busy intersection on NE 40th in Redmond.
Many gaps in the Eastrail currently exist in Bellevue, where several bridge projects are in the works. The northernmost gap will be closed with the completion of a bike and pedestrian bridge over NE 8th Street, near the new Willburton East light rail station. This project will go out to bid this year, with work hopefully beginning in 2022. Located near the former site of the Bellevue Growers Association warehouse, a hub for Japanese American farmers to pack and ship their produce, the bridge will include artworks from Bellevue’s Japanese American Commemoration Project to celebrate this history.
The group bike ride then proceeded to the site of a future light rail station in Bellevue’s Spring District, where Sound Transit’s coming East Link extension will enable multimodal connections around the Eastrail. A new trail has been built along 120th in Bellevue as part of that project, linking up the Eastrail with Bellevue's bike route to downtown.
Heading southward, the next gap is the Willburton Trestle, a historic wooden railroad bridge that passes 100 feet over Willburton Creek. King County is working to complete design work on the necessary upgrades to the trestle by the end of 2021, with a goal of beginning construction next year and opening the bridge to bikes in 2023.
The Willburton Trestle. Photo by Eli Brownell, King County Parks.
Another bridge project to the south is now under construction by the Washington Department of Transportation. This new pedestrian and bike bridge would cross over Interstate 405 near the Mercer Slough.
“By late 2023, we hope that people will be able to start in Bellevue at the north end of the Willburton Trestle, ride over the trestle, over Interstate 405, and connect to Mercer Slough,” says Curt Warber, Eastrail coordinator for King County Parks and Recreation.
Heading southward, Interstate 90 severs the Eastrail corridor. For now, people on bikes will have to continue using the bike lanes along 118th Ave SE/Lake Washington Boulevard SE to reach the Lake Washington Loop Trail, which connects to Eastrail/Eastside Rail Corridor near Newcastle Beach Park. From here, the Eastrail runs along the shore of Lake Washington for 4.5 miles, past Kennydale Beach Park, to just south of Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park in Renton.
Eastrail passes by multiple parks including Kennydale Beach Park, a great destination for a summer swim. Some signage on the Eastrail still reflects the old name: Eastside Rail Corridor Trail.
A 2.5-mile segment of this most southerly segment of the Eastrail is still under construction between the Coal Creek Parkway in Bellevue and Ripley Lane in Renton. “We hope to have that segment open by the end of this summer,” says Joe Inslee, Eastrail communications and community engagement manager for King County. Once finished, this segment will be one of the nicer multi-use trails in the region: 20 feet wide, with lights at every road intersection.
More than just a recreational asset, the Eastrail will enable far more people to commute to work or school by bike, and to access the multiple light rail stations being built by Sound Transit.
“Eastrail is one of the most ambitious and exciting bike and multi-use routes in the Seattle region, linking communities along the eastern shore of Lake Washington and connecting many communities throughout the region,” says Clarke. “The Eastrail’s benefits to our economy, quality of life, sustainable growth, health, and happiness will be incredible.”
A large group of public officials and interested citizens joined the ride to preview segments of the Eastrail.
I pedaled home to Seattle over the SR 520 Trail, daydreaming about the big loops and long rides to Woodinville wine country or beyond that I will take in coming months and years.
Read our story from last summer to learn more history of the Eastrail: “Eastside Ride: the 42-Mile Eastrail Will Transform How People Travel and Recreate in East King County.”
See more maps and information at Eastrail.org.