Sammamish Council Elections Could Mean A Better Way Forward for the East Lake Sammamish Trail

ELST stop sign 4

The East Lake Sammamish Trail was back in Federal Court this summer. And while the court decision is another step towards a completed trail, electing pro-trail Council members in this fall’s Sammamish Council elections is essential to completing the trail without further litigation and delay.

Early this summer, the city of Sammamish ordered King County to stop construction of the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST), just as King County crews neared completion of the penultimate segment of the 11-mile trail. At issue was placement of stop signs in two locations on the trail. The city intervention is the latest in a twenty-year City-County disagreement about re-development of the disused rail corridor running along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish, including 5 miles running through the city of Sammamish.

Once complete the ELST will be a safe, connected multi-use trail from Redmond to Issaquah, and could soon connect to the Eastside Rail Corridor. The ELST segment through Sammamish has been slow and litigious, in contrast to the trail through Redmond (opened 2011) and Issaquah (opened 2013).

To resolve the latest dispute and keep working on the trail, King County asked the Federal District Court to step in and make a decision on the case. That decision came on August 7th when the Federal District Court ruled in favor of King County, meaning that construction can resume and the region is one step closer to realizing its vision of the 44-mile Locks to Lakes corridor for all to enjoy.

This short video, produced by Cascade Bicycle Club, captures why the ELST matters to caring neighbors and people throughout the region:

STOP SIGNS ARE FOCUS OF LATEST LEGAL DISPUTE:

The dispute centers around placement of two stop signs, where roads (206th Avenue SE and SE 33rd Street) cross the ELST in Sammamish. King County is building the trail and wants the stop sign on the residential access roads, given that the number of people using the trail is anticipated to be higher than the few that access the shoreline homes via these two roads. This approach reflects best practice and design and engineering guidance developed by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The city issued the stop work order as it believes the stop sign should apply to the many trail users, not the smaller number using the road.

THE RESOLUTION: STOP SIGNS ON ROAD NOT TRAIL

This week, a full two months further into Western Washington’s notoriously narrow construction season, crews are returning to the site to keep building the trail. On August 8th a written Federal District Court ruling affirmed that King County has the right to determine the stop signs orientation as the owner of the corridor right of way.

It’s a win for future trail users because it will make for a more intuitive, safe trail user experience. And, with the County work crews back at work, we can look forward to walking and biking the trail – a safe, protected, connected route – by October.

CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS: A CHANCE TO RECOMMIT TO THE ELST VISION

While the court ruling means construction can now resume, the sad reality is that without the mid-June order to stop work, we’d be riding and walking the trail today. After the 20-year delay in completing the trail, WA Bikes believes it’s time for city and county leaders to work together to prevent any further delays and instead focus on completing this essential trail connection. Instead, the city is appealing the court ruling, which doesn’t stop work on the trail but does come at a financial cost.

This election season represents the chance to elect a pro-trail council in Sammamish. Four of the seven Sammamish city council seats will be vacated this November. With a majority of council being newly elected by voters (none of the current council members are running for reelection), Washington Bikes’ plans to endorse candidates in all four races who commit to making Sammamish better for people on bikes – including by providing leadership in the city and working to make sure the East Lake Sammamish Trail is completed for all to enjoy, without further delay.

Electing a pro-trail council matters now because the fate of the final 3.5-mile segment of the ELST through Sammamish still isn’t clear. Thus, it’s critical we elect leaders in Sammamish who understand why safe places to walk and bike, including trails like the ELST, are essential to our communities. Safe places to walk, bike and play – out of the way of traffic –  ensures access to outdoor spaces for all types of users, regardless of age and ability.

YOUR VOICE, YOUR VOTE, MATTERS

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ELST_Segments

The 11-mile East Lake Sammamish Trail will connect Redmond to Issaquah via Sammamish. 

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