Light rail will buzz along the I-5 corridor between Lynnwood and Northgate in a few years.
At some points, the Interurban Trail could run alongside it. At others, it may be on the opposite side of the freeway. Where Sound Transit light rail stations and the track get built will determine the path’s proximity between Lynnwood City Center and Everett Station.
But active transportation advocates are seeking better connections to light rail as one consideration of a regional trail network through King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Trails can be one more way of getting people to light rail without a car.
On Saturday, organizers from Leafline Trails Coalition and Snohomish County Transportation Coalition (Snotrac) hosted a bike tour of the Interurban Trail.
“A person driving doesn’t have to worry about getting where they have to go,” Snotrac executive director Brock Howell said. “… That just is not the case for biking and walking infrastructure.”
A few dozen people joined the “policy ride” that stopped at a few locations in Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.
Interurban Trail is managed by Snohomish County, the Snohomish County Public Utility District, and the cities it crosses through enroute to Seattle. The shared management has made for an inconsistent experience through Snohomish County at times.
But Snohomish County Director of Conservation and Natural Resources Tom Teigen said those agencies are working on long-term agreements.
In 2018, Lynnwood built a missing link at 212th Street SW near 63rd Avenue W, which Howell called an example of improvements for trail use.
The 8-mile tour started at the Mountlake Terrace Senior Community Center and cruised north toward the Lynnwood Transit Center, also called Lynnwood City Center. Construction of light rail there closed the nearby section of trail in July. A detour asks cyclists to dismount in spots.
Bike and pedestrian paths separated from traffic with long uninterrupted stretches can serve a similar role to light rail in moving people between communities, said Luke Distelhorst, a Leafline member and Edmonds City Councilmember.
But the Interurban Trail intersects with vehicles at dozens of locations and shares the road in some stretches. Even on the short trek Saturday, the trail crossed roads at several intersections and was a combination of separated path, shared sidewalk, and unprotected bike lanes on the road.
Following the trail straight through 76th Avenue W, it leads to a dead end at Mathay-Ballinger Park.
Officially, Interurban turns onto 76th Avenue W as a bike lane on the road. Going south it is uphill through the intersection with Highway 104. Shoreline is on the other side of the highway.
“Think about how nice and calm it was just north of here,” Distelhorst said to the cyclists in a parking lot near the highway intersection Saturday.
The difficulty of pedaling up the hill and putting cyclists on the road next to drivers keeps more people from riding it, Distelhorst said.
That’s a problem across the Puget Sound region, Leafline project manager Claire Martini said.
“What we have today are a number of really fantastic facilities,” Martini said. “But even some of our longest trails in the region have gaps that make it so it’s not a comfortable all ages and abilities trip.”
Back at the start of the ride at Mountlake Terrace Senior Community Center, others pedaled east on the Lakeview Trail. That 1-mile sidewalk path connects the Interurban Trail to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, which also will host a light rail station.
“I think there’s a lot of work we can do in Snohomish County on improving existing trails and then putting together a vision for new trails,” Distelhorst said.
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