Eastside Rail Now's proposed extension of the Eastside railroad to the combined campus of the University of Washington at Bothell and Cascadia Community College is another example, along with downtown Bellevue's Grand Esplanade, of the many outstanding opportunities that the railroad offers for greatly enhancing mobility on the Eastside quickly, at modest cost, and in an environmentally-beneficial manner.
The approximately one mile route (see map), which is part of Eastside Rail Now's recently announced comprehensive regional rail transit plan, would utilize the existing spur that leads northwest from downtown Woodinville (and which formerly extended all the way past the UW main campus and into downtown Seattle). It would be extended by constructing a new section of track that would pass under the I-405 freeway (which is elevated at this point) and then on a viaduct over the Sammamish Slough and SR-522 to a station that might be located near the existing bus stop just to the north of the existing buildings. All easements required for the extension are already in public ownership, and no demolition of existing structures would be required.
This extension would be consistent with the innovative and effective policy of discouraging automobile commuting that the UW has applied at its main campus beginning in 1991. It would provide convenient, congestion-free, and comfortable access for students, staff and visitors from the entire length of the Eastside as well as the southern part of Snohomish County, and would thereby allow a large expansion of the Bothell campus while minimizing the need for constructing additional costly parking facilities, access roads, etc. Moreover, it could be the first stage of an eventual extension westward to downtown Bothell and possibly beyond.
It would also be consistent with the recent vote by the Bothell City Council to launch a new program called Bothell CO2OL in order to combat climate change.1
This extension would mean that all three campuses of the UW would have some sort of passenger rail access. The Tacoma branch is already served by the Tacoma Link light rail line, which connects to the nearby Sounder and Amtrak services. Plans are currently being finalized for a northern extension of Sound Transit's light rail line from downtown Seattle to the main campus, and there has been discussion about extending the South Lake Union Streetcar line north to the UW. This is part of a nation-wide trend of providing direct rail transit service to universities.2
The total cost for the project could likely be kept to just a fraction of the more than $200 million per mile that Sound Transit plans to spend for its various light rail extensions. Reasons for this include the facts that (a) a substantial portion of the track is already in place, (b) the entire right of way is already in public ownership, (c) the line can (and should) be constructed with only a single track and (d) no costly electrification is required.
Funding is readily available from the many hundreds of millions of dollars in sales tax revenues that Sound Transit has already collected from the East King County sub-area -- and the billions more which it is scheduled to collect in the coming years -- but has not spent in the same sub-area as required.
The above preliminary sketch is looking to the northwest and shows a section of the route just after it has entered the campus. Thanks to Howard Frank for the artwork.
2Numerous universities in the U.S. and Canada are served directly by rail lines, particularly light rail and streetcar. Among the newest West Coast examples are the San Diego Trolley's extension to Santee, which includes an underground station on the San Diego State campus, and the Portland Streetcar, which runs on the surface through the campus of Portland State University.
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Created June 26, 2008.
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