The following is the text of the first of two testimonies presented by Eastside Rail Now! at the Port of Seattle Commission meeting on May 6, 2008. The second testimony was regarding Eastside Rail Now's proposal for downtown Bellevue's Grand Esplanade.
Many people are aware that the Port is purchasing the Eastside rail corridor. But the Port is also doing something that is just as important -- it is saving the railroad.
Clearly, some people do not yet appreciate this. However, they will in the coming years. If they do not understand the absolute necessity of retaining and upgrading the railroad for emergency freight capacity, they will see its importance for commuter rail in our increasingly congested and polluted region.
They may also see a return to Renton of the popular and profitable Dinner Train, whose operation was needlessly terminated as part of the ill-conceived scheme to scrap the railroad.
We fully expect that within a few years, few people will be able to comprehend that there had once been serious efforts to destroy this vital transportation artery.
By the way, it is also quite possible that the rail line could see a significant increase in local and medium distance freight traffic, as has often been the case when lightly used branch lines are spun off as short lines under new ownership. And this trend could be helped by soaring fuel prices.
Although the Port is absolutely correct when it says that rail has to remain the primary use for the corridor, there are several additional, compatible uses.
We believe that the most important of these is as a linear nature preserve and wildlife habitat. Few urban areas are so blessed to have such a magnificent greenbelt in their midst, and we need to do everything possible to protect it, including removing invasive species -- and resist the pressures to pave much of it over. Preserving this greenbelt is fully compatible with the Port's stated emphasis on protecting our environment.
A simple hiking trail that respects the existing topography and does not damage significant plant life is certainly compatible with this use on some parts of the right of way -- and it should be considered where it would not create a safety hazard.
However, serious questions remain about whether the right of way is suitable for a high speed bicycle route that some have suggested. Among the problems is that the proposed 20 to 30 foot pavement would destroy the integrity of the corridor as a linear nature preserve.
This public discussion about the future of the railroad could actually work to the benefit of those of us who like to ride bicycles, which includes myself and many other Eastside Rail Now! members. This is because it is opening up a discussion of the many other opportunities for facilitating bicycle use -- opportunities that would be both less damaging to the environment and far less costly.
Thus, this clearly has the potential to become a win-win situation for almost everyone.
Thank you so much for what you have done for all of us!
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This page created May 7, 2008.
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