Proposed Eastside Corridor Monorail

by Bob Fleming

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East of Seattle, across Lake Washington from Seattle, there is an abandoned railroad line running between the cities of Renton and Snohomish, passing through Bellevue, Kirkland, and Woodinville, with a branch to Redmond.

The line was owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), but they no longer had sufficient use for it and they sold it to the Port of Seattle, which then sold portions to various municpalities along the route. This old railroad right-of-way is known as the Eastside Rail Corridor.

The future use of the corridor is the subject of considerable controversy. Many people want it converted to biking and hiking paths. Others want to use it for a north-south light rail route serving the East Side. These two uses conflict because of reasons of space, safety, and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians.

My Opinions

I am very strongly in favor of building the trail. I also think it would be a valuable commuter transit route. I believe that a monorail would be more logical than light rail or other railroad commuter use.

This is a table comparing use of light rail vs. monorail in this corridor:

Factor With Light Rail With Monorail
Space Two tracks of light rail will take about twenty feet of width including space between trains going oposite directions and between trains and objects alongside the tracks About three or four feet at the surface where the trail users will be. The trains will be high above them.
Access for trail users The trails will block access from the other side except at crossings perhaps miles apart, or people crossing tracks will place themselves at serious risk. People can cross under the monorail any place they want.
Impact on neighborhoods Tracks will be a barrier, almost like a wall, between neighbors and businessess on opposite sides of the trail. Most streets will not cross the tracks. Neighbors can pass under the monorail to go to other neighbors and businesses. Streets can still cross under the monorail.
Impact on Residents Alongside Corridor Trains will be noisy, with steel wheels on steel rails. Expect screeching on curves as the flanges of the wheels scrape the sides of the rails. Not entirely quiet, but more of a “swoosh” with rubber tires on concrete beams.
Safety at Crossings Trains will probably operate safely, but no matter whether vehicle drivers are drunk, careless, taking a risk, or whatever, it is still a tragedy when they and their passengers die, even if it is their own fault. Meanwhile rail service is shut down until the wreckage is cleared and the investigation is completed. Monorail trains will go above the cars, no dead drivers or kids. No disruption of service.
Safety for trail users Some cyclists and pedestrians will risk crossing the tracks, and kids using the trail may wander onto the tracks. More deaths and injuries. Trail users can safely go under the monorail trains. No deaths or injuries.
Costs Since the roadbed is mostly already there, costs will probably be similar. Since the roadbed is mostly already there, costs will probably be similar.

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©2008 Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated on 18 May 2018.

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