The Kirkland City Council voted to endorse transit on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, over the objections of many residents who held “Recall The Council” signs.

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The Kirkland City Council has voted to endorse transit on the Cross Kirkland Corridor as part of a Sound Transit 3 package, despite objections from residents who want the corridor to remain a more wooded, natural trail.

The council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to include the Kirkland project in what could be a $20 billion regional transportation ballot measure later this year, with taxes potentially stretching out until 2050 or beyond.

In letters to the Sound Transit board, the council recommended full funding for the light rail from Totem Lake to Bellevue and Issaquah. It calls for further study to determine the best transportation mode for the Kirkland corridor, with bus rapid transit as one option.

City officials said that with technology evolving and the Kirkland project likely to be far down on the project list, it wanted Sound Transit to take a flexible approach and work with the city on what might ultimately be built.

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The council urged Sound Transit to ensure that any transit on the corridor have zero emissions and address concerns about noise, safety, parking and environmental impact. City officials say transit would run on only a portion of the corridor’s 100-foot-right-of-way, preserving the remainder as a bike and pedestrian trail.

That didn’t satisfy about 70 residents who held “Recall The Council” signs during the meeting and wore green to show their support for keeping the trail in a more natural state. Another 1,700 have signed an online petition opposing any transit on the corridor.

Some members of Save Our Trails acknowledged they might not have legal grounds for a recall, but said the signs were a way to show their displeasure.

“There’s a strong feeling that this was railroaded through,” said Macgregor Miller, who opposes transit on the corridor. He said that the first city open house on the proposal came after the November elections, too late for residents to raise the trail as a campaign issue.

The Cross Kirkland Corridor currently is only a gravel trail, but the city of Kirkland voted to ask Sound Transit to add transit to a Sound Transit 3 package.
The Cross Kirkland Corridor currently is only a gravel trail, but the city of Kirkland voted to ask Sound Transit to add transit to a Sound Transit 3 package.

Kirkland bought its six-mile portion of the Eastside Rail Corridor and opened it to bikes and pedestrians a year ago.

The debate before the council mirrored the one that likely will engage the entire region as the immense cost of potentially extending light rail to Pierce and Snohomish counties and Redmond and Issaquah in King County is weighed against worsening traffic congestion and the lack of a coordinated, efficient transit system across the three-counties.

Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon cast the only no vote Tuesday, saying the potential ballot measure will be too expensive and benefit too few in Kirkland. He said the cost each year to Kirkland residents is estimated at $24 million, or $500 for every household for a tax measure that could extend for decades.

For the same money, he said, Kirkland could create a system of local shuttles that would serve every neighborhood, school, business center, transit center and park and ride, “making it far more convenient for people to leave their cars at home.”

But Councilmember Shelley Kloba said the region is already paying a price in pollution, reduced productivity, time away from families and too few commuting choices.

“Regional cooperation is the only way we will get anything done,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold agreed, saying that while the sentiment of many residents seems to be to “do nothing” on the trail, the timeline of the Sound Transit 3 projects may be 40 years or more.

“Doing nothing for the next 40 years is not an option,” he said.

Information in this article, originally published Jan. 20, 2016, was corrected Jan. 21, 2016. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Kirkland City Council voted Monday night. The vote was Tuesday night.

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