Monday, April 18, 2016

LETTER: Redmond Central Connector is an important addition to Redmond's trail network

Redmond Central Connector: An Important Addition to Redmond’s Trail Network
The Redmond Central Connector (RCC) trail is a rail trail. A rail trail is the conversion of a disused railway into a multi-use path, typically for walking, cycling and sometimes horse riding [Wikipedia].  
The City of Redmond purchased the BNSF railroad right of way in Redmond in 2010 specifically to create a rail trail. Design of Phase II of the RCC is complete and construction will begin this summer.
While the RCC will enable easier, safer, faster pedestrian and bike access to Digipen and tech companies along Willows Road, that was never the main intention.
Rather, the RCC was envisioned as several things: First, it is a beautiful (and popular) linear park in downtown Redmond. Second, it is a means for cyclists to bypass Redmond Way and Cleveland Street to travel through Redmond from north to south (and vice-versa). And third, the RCC is an important component and connector in the Puget Sound regional trail network.
To the south, the RCC will connect directly with the East Lake Sammamish Trail and enable non-motorized travel to Sammamish, Issaquah and beyond. To the north and west, the RCC will connect to the Cross Kirkland Connector and the Eastside Rail Corridor. In the near future, one will be able to cycle by trail to Kirkland, Bellevue and Renton. Additionally, Snohomish County has purchased BNSF right-of-way and plans to develop a trail from Woodinville to Snohomish.
Traffic is an unavoidable part of life in our region. Trails enable people to walk and bike more safely – and remove cars from roads. In an ideal world, trails would be designed with no traffic intersections. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world. Fortunately, trail intersections can be improved with signage and warning mechanisms for both trail users and vehicle operators.
There are plenty of examples of trail users and traffic coexisting peacefully. The Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle has many intersections as does the Sammamish River Trail in Bothell and Kenmore. The East Lake Sammamish Trail has a number of intersections including an entrance to busy Lake Sammamish State Park. The relatively new Cross Kirkland Connector follows the old BNSF railbed as well, with a number of street crossings.
The Sammamish River Trail – a multi-use recreational trail where bicyclists, dogwalkers, kids, and commuters all coexist – is owned and maintained by King County. Yes it does get delightfully crowded on sunny days.  A faster, less crowded alternative trail will be welcomed by many even if it is not as scenic.
Still concerned about safety issues and traffic near the RCC? Simple solution: Use the Sammamish River Trail. I’m looking forward to biking the second phase of the RCC when it opens in late 2016!
I’m not speaking for anyone but myself; however, I have served on the Redmond Parks and Trails Commission for six years, including a year as Chairperson. Anyone is welcome to attend our Commission meetings to express his/her concerns, ideas, and questions.  We meet first Thursday of every month, 6:30 pm at Redmond City Hall.
Tom Sanko

2 comments:

Bob Yoder said...

Thanks, Tom! I look forward to biking or hiking the new RCC trail extension, too.

Brent Schmaltz said...

Tom,

While it is enticing to embrace this new trail, I have a slightly different opinion on this.

You emphasis that it seems to be OK that the trail along Willows has numerous crossings with cars since it happens elsewhere as you mentioned. However, you never mentioned that today one can cycle/walk from Marymoor Park to Bothell without any interaction with automobiles. People get hurt when trails mix with cars. Just remember the lady that ended up in critical care when hit in Bellevue in March.

You say "A faster, less crowded alternative ...". Let me remind you that there will be 9 street crossings, that's NINE, between 124th and the train bridge. How will you be able to go fast? Have you driven off of Willows onto 95th? As soon as you turn off Willows, you are on the trail.

What is most puzzling about this project is why are the tax payers of Redmond spending $20 million dollars to build a state-of-the-art biking-hiking-walking trail alongside a busy street with numerous car crossings when the tax payers of Redmond also own (its public land) a trail alongside the Sammamish River. Why are we not investing in a really nice trail along the river? How does this make sense? The Sammamish River tail has not been improved in the 25 years that I have been using it, yet the population has doubled and with all the new residents within 5 minute walk, it is just jammed packed. Last year I witnessed 3 accidents and know of 2 others. It is more than just busy, it is dangerous.

In addition, if you consider how jam packed 202 is (and it will be worse as 100's of new homes are going in) relief for commuters by widening Willows, now becomes much harder. Widening 202 is almost impossible as there is no setback on the new developments. A natural path to rout cars from 520 to Woodinville would be to Willows then 124th. Now everyone goes 202, it adds 15 – 20 minutes to an already slow commute. That translates to 50 – 70 hours a year (based on 200 working days). About a week and a half stuck in traffic.

Brent Schmaltz