Eastside News

Kirkland eyes aerial tram to connect to new freeway bus station

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Travel the world and you'll probably ride an aerial tramway or a funicular railway to get people up and down hills.

Kirkland has a hill, too, and about a mile to move people between I-405 and downtown.

That will become a critical connection when Sound Transit's new bus rapid transit line along I-405 opens with a station along the freeway at Northeast 85th Street.

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"Where we're looking is sort of the lessons of Europe and South America, where people have things like aerial tramways, gondolas or funiculars," said Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett.

Triplett says Sound Transit is open to ideas for creative ways to get people to the BRT stop.

BRT will bring buses as often as every 10 minutes and is funded by the 2016 Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, which Triplett says set aside $48 million for building new lanes for buses to move passengers between the BRT stop and Kirkland's transit center.

Instead of building expensive new roadways and bridges, Triplett thinks an aerial system would be cheaper and require less land.

"You can soar above everything and just stay out of the traffic until you land, we think that is an opportunity to make it much more reliable, understandable, and, we hope, much less expensive," Triplett said.

He doesn't think the city will need anything as big as the tram in Portland, which runs to Oregon Health Science University.

If a funicular is chosen, it could make a stop at the popular Cross-Kirkland Corridor trail.

"We're not moving thousands of people, it's not a mass transit system it's just how do you meet a load of people every ten minutes so it's very achievable," Triplett said.

Kirkland officials hope to do some preliminary cost estimates and expect plans for connecting to the BRT stop will come together in the next year.

BRT service on I-405, which promises buses as often as every ten minutes, is expected to begin in 2024.