July 2, 2007
Eastside Rail Now! was begun on January 2, exactly six months ago, and our increasingly popular web site was launched two days later. Now is a good time to step back and review what has been accomplished and consider what remains to be done.
When we started discussing the shocking plan to scrap the railroad, the outlook appeared to be very gloomy indeed. In fact, it looked like the supposedly "creative" airport trade was almost a done deal. We remembered the fiasco with the railroad between Issaquah and Redmond, with the bulldozers moving in to rip out the tracks as soon as the court gave permission and without seriously considering the good potential this railroad had as a transit route on our increasingly automobile-choked and transit-deprived Eastside. It appeared that the same fate was awaiting the Eastside railroad, perhaps within a matter of months.
Now, six months later, the situation is remarkably different. The signs for the future of the railroad are increasingly optimistic. Specifically,
The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the plan to rip out the tracks and the major setback that could result for transportation and environmental progress on the Eastside.
A growing number of public officials have come out in favor of saving the railroad, either in public announcements or in private statements.
The plan to swap King County Airport for the railroad is very endangered.
King County Executive Ron Sims is apparently moving towards a position more favorable to the railroad, although there is still a considerable ways to go.
There is a good chance that the bloated "Roads & Transit" November ballot measure could fail, thereby inducing government officials to pay more attention to less costly and more effective solutions, such as utilizing the Eastside railroad for transit.
There is growing awareness that scrapping the railroad could be in conflict with existing Washington state law.
Plans are being developed to launch a simple pilot transit service on the railroad as a first step towards starting a regular transit service on it.
Much remains to be done, but this is a good start. A main goal for the next six months is to try to prevent the planned severing of the track at the Wilburton tunnel by WSDOT in conjunction with the widening of I-405. This severing is "penny wise and pound foolish," as it will likely in the long run cost more than it will save. It is unnecessary, and it is definitely not in the best interests of the Eastside or the region as a whole.
We will also continue to work to inform the general public and political leaders about the unparalleled opportunity we have with this railroad and its right of way and the complete folly of squandering it for possible short-term political (and financial?) gains for a very few individuals. In addition, we will continue to develop specific plans for utilizing the railroad and its right of way to benefit the region as a whole.
A big thanks to all of you (both individuals and groups) for all of your hard work for this very worthy and common-sense cause.
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