Eastside residents got a chance to look at proposals for converting existing rail lines to trails and light rail Wednesday night. The tracks used to belong to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line, but the railroad sold them to King County and Sound Transit.
Sound Transit plans to use one area in Bellevue for its East Link Light Rail line and some hope it could expand along the rail lines and connect the eastside.
King County Council Member Jane Hague co-chairs a committee that’s looking at how to use the rail corridor. Hague called the area, "42 miles of a blank canvas for all sorts of transportation uses."
She says the goal would be to use the land for several things “light rail, trail and utility conveyance all on one corridor."
That corridor runs near some eastside neighborhoods. Potential neighbors for the trails and rail line showed up at the open house to learn more about what could happen.
Some say they only want to see trails in the area and a light rail line closer to Interstate 405.
Larry Reymann's home in Renton is nearby.
“I could probably with the wind at my back spit on it,” he explained.
Reymann sees both positives and negatives to the proposals.
“I would hope we can accommodate a trail and some sort of transit that would alleviate the gridlock on 405,” he said. He added that it’s important to make sure the environment is not impacted.
In some communities, the trail conversion has already started and there is hope the light rail could come just behind it. Rail supporters say it will take time and money, but the benefits could change how people get around the eastside.
“We see this happening over 20 years or more,” Hague explained. She hopes it would improve congestion on freeways and buses.
It sounds good to those bus passengers dealing with overcrowding and potential cuts in Metro service.
“I'd much rather be able to get around all the time if light rail was out here,” passenger Erik Salter said.
There is still a lot that has to be figured out and financed, but several people said they’re hopeful it will start moving forward.
“It has to be done with respect to private property and hopefully the ability to move people and get them out of single occupancy vehicle,” Reymann explained.