If you’re looking to explore “new” bicycling routes on Seattle’s Eastside this weekend, you can visit the two, long-awaited, completed sections of the Eastside Rail Corridor.
For all intents and purposes, a 4-mile section between Newcastle Beach Park in Bellevue and Coulon Park in Renton is open, as is a 1-mile segment connected to the Cross Kirkland Corridor on the north side of Bellevue.
Although crews may close short sections of trail as they finish up some odds and ends during the week, the trail should be open to bicycle riders and pedestrians this weekend.
A grand opening for these latest sections of rail-trail on the former BNSF railroad corridor will be scheduled later this spring, said Erica Jacobs, ERC trail project manager for King County Parks.
The 4-mile section between Bellevue and Renton is a scenic, flat route along the Lake Washington shoreline. It bypasses a couple of hills on the Lake Washington Bicycle Route, and is much quieter than the stretch alongside I-405 in Renton.
In addition to the waterfront parks at the bookends, the trail passes the sandy Kennydale Beach Park in Renton. Other landmarks include the Seahawks training facility at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex and the Quendall Terminal superfund clean-up site.
Lake Washington is clearly visible for the entire length, as the trail runs behind a nearly uninterrupted string of waterfront homes.
The surface is hard-packed crushed limestone; not as fast as asphalt, but not sloggy either. Temporary crosswalk patterns — permanent crossings will be installed over the summer — are painted across streets. The stop signs at most intersections favor the cyclists, requiring cars crossing the trail to stop.
The northern trailhead sits at the entrance to Newcastle Beach Park in Bellevue. The park has restrooms, picnic facilities, a beach, and a playground.
The southern trailhead is rather nebulous at this time, as there is no direct access from the trail to Gene Coulon Memorial Park in Renton.
The rail-trail ends at the still-used railroad tracks about 3/4 mile from the main entrance to the park on Lake Washington Boulevard. A north entrance gate for pedestrians (no bicycles allowed) at the north end of the park is roughly adjacent to this trail terminus, but it is blocked from the trail by a fence.
Jacobs said the county will enter into talks with Renton to create a connection down the embankment to that north gate and to find a way to allow bicyclists to enter Coulon Park from the southern trail terminus. Bicycles are prohibited from all the pathways in Coulon Park, and the nearest park road is about a 0.5 mile from that northern gate.
In the meantime, wayfaring signs will be installed at the trail intersection with North 33rd Street directing bicyclists take Lake Washington Boulevard bike lane for the final mile to the Coulon Park entrance.
Jacobs said the county’s intention is for a continuous, shared-used path into Coulon Park.
Crews are completing a 1-mile section of trail at the north end, which connects to the 5.75-mile Cross Kirkland Corridor trail at 108th Avenue NE.
The new trail heads south after crossing 108th for about a mile.
goes under I-405 and SR 520, and then follows a previous railroad siding to 120th Avenue NE.
It seems as if this project has been in the planning stages for most of the past decade. As I live nearby, I often pass by this corridor that used to carry freight trains and a dinner train north to the Woodinville wine district.
You can find some previous stories at BikingBis.com about the history of the project here.
Numerous other projects are required before this Eastside backbone trail is complete. A new crossing over I-450 needs to be constructed where the state removed a hill in order to widen the interstate. Also, the famous Wilburton Bridge needs to be rehabilitated before bicyclists and pedestrians start across.