On December 11th, 2011, the Kirkland City Council approved the purchase of the abandoned BNSF rail corridor within the city limits of Kirkland. The purchase closed sometime back in March and shortly afterwards, Kirkland placed concrete blocks across the rail line. Because the tracks have already been severed south of the Wilburton trestle in Bellevue, it is currently impossible for trains to travel anywhere within the city of Bellevue. With Kirkland planning to convert their section into a bicycle and pedestrian trail you can be assured that trains will not be crossing at either NE 8th in Bellevue or 108th near the South Kirkland park & ride any time in the near future.
Unfortunately, because of the way State law is written, commercial drivers in buses and trucks are still required to stop at these crossings, because they both lack an “Exempt” or “Out of service” sign. Given the mandatory penalty of a 60-day license suspension for not stopping, you can bet that the vast majority of commercial drivers will be stopping. (The State Patrol has recently been stepping up enforcement at other crossings in the area – ones with active train traffic – so there has been increased awareness among commercial drivers of the rules and penalties)
I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue. Rest assured though, that marking these crossing as “Exempt” will improve traffic flow in both areas. Cars can’t pass stopped buses at 108th and NE 8th has a considerable amount of bus traffic since it has the RapidRide B-line and is a deadheading route for buses coming from the east side bases.
A noticeable improvement in traffic flow for two congested areas for the cost of 4 “Exempt” signs? I’d call that a prime example of low hanging fruit.