On Monday morning, dozens of people braved the cold and rain to gather just off of Northeast 70th Street in Redmond to celebrate the completion of the Redmond portion of the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST).
Construction on the 1.2-mile-long section of paved trail began in May and was completed about a month ahead of schedule and cost $1.86 million — more than $1.5 million less than the originally estimated cost of $3.4 million.
King County parks Director Kevin Brown said they were able to save so much money because the current climate for bid projects is very good, largely due to the economy. He said the savings will go toward other trail projects around the county.
According to the King County website, funding for the ELST is provided in part by the 2008-13 voter-approved Proposition 2 Parks Expansion Levy.
The 11-mile trail is located on the east side of Lake Sammamish and was previously a portion of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad corridor. It runs through Redmond, Sammamish and Issaquah. Brown, who spoke during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, said the county acquired the trail's right-of-way about 15 years ago.
The Redmond portion begins at Northeast 70th Street and ends at the Redmond-Sammamish border at 187th Avenue Northeast. The Redmond construction also included a 77-space parking lot for quick and easy access to the ELST as well as creating proper drainage and a soft shoulder and installing vegetation and fencing.
City of Redmond parks Director Craig Larsen said because the trail stretches across three cities with three different permitting processes, King County has broken down the project by jurisdiction.
"We're happy to be the first one," he said about the Redmond portion's completion.
Larsen also spoke during the ceremony and thanked the county's commitment to the project, acknowledging the long process.
"Trail projects are always difficult," he said.
Larsen said completing this portion of the ELST will tie in nicely with the city's Redmond Central Connector (RCC) as they hope to eventually connect the two trails. Once these trails are completed, people will be able to walk, jog or bike from downtown Issaquah to Redmond on a paved trail.
In addition to Larsen and Brown, speakers during the ceremony were King County Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett, King County Council member Larry Phillips, and Cascade Bicycle Club Executive Director Chuck Ayers. Each spoke about how the trail will help connect the region and give people transportation options.
"It's a way to provide people with getting around (traffic) congestion," said Jarrett.
Additionally, the speakers said the paved ELST will offer a safe and accessible trail for bicyclists, skaters, pedestrians, joggers and other trail users.
The trail will also encourage people to get out and exercise, but Ayers said one of the biggest things the ELST will do is connect the region's neighbors.
"(Voters) have given us a treasure of a neighborhood gift," he said. "It belongs to everybody."
The county's next step in the ELST project is the Issaquah end of the trail, which will begin spring 2012. Larsen said this portion is about a mile long, like the Redmond stretch. The remaining nine or so miles of the ELST is in Sammamish, which Larsen said is why it is the final step: Projects are completed as funding comes in and raising funds for the large Sammamish portion will take time.