Editorial: Protect rail, trail options for Eastside rail corridor
Transmission towers are proposed for an old Eastside rail route, and while neighbors complain about the view, bigger question is whether it will impede using the corridor for rail and trails.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE despoliation of views from ritzy homes along the Lake Washington waterfront probably isn’t the biggest concern for the public at large. But the 74 Renton-area property owners who have sued to block a proposed Puget Sound Energy power line have done the region an unintentional service.
They call attention to the need for big-picture thinking about the Eastside rail corridor, the unique and valuable strip of land that connects Renton to Snohomish.
Sold to local governments five years ago after a disinterested Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway stopped running freight trains, the 123-year-old rail route is one of the few unbroken north-to-south strips of land east of Lake Washington.
It has been eyed for everything from bike paths to pipelines to transmission towers. The most significant possibility is moving people via rail and trail — the corridor’s highest and best use.
No single entity owns the property, however, and none has studied whether the proposal from Puget Sound Energy would block options to restore rail service and build a trail. The utility is suggesting that parts of the corridor between Renton and Bellevue be used for a transmission line towering about 100 feet, supplementing an older backbone line that reaches Eastside population centers by another route.
The section of the rail corridor in question narrows in places to about 50 feet and perches on a hilly slope. Tracks remain on the easiest-to-develop part. A report to King County’s Eastside rail corridor advisory committee notes that a transmission line would gobble another 20 to 30 feet — something might have to go.
At present, the rail line is easily restorable. Poor planning could block rail, a trail, or both. King County’s advisory committee needs to become a strong voice for protection of both transportation uses. If Puget Sound Energy can’t coexist with rails and trails, it should look elsewhere.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).