Debra Sinick

How Safe Will It Be For Kids To Cross the Railroad Tracks to Go to School in Kirkland, Washington?

In Bellevue, Kirkland News, Kirkland WA, rails to trails, WA on May 4, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Picture a commuter train whizzing by in Kirkland during the morning commute on its way to Bellevue.  The tracks completely separate the Kirkland Highlands neighborhood from Peter Kirk Elementary School and Kirkland Junior High.  There’s no other way to walk to school and Peter Kirk is a “walking” school.   Picture kids crossing the tracks to visit friends after school hours when there’s no supervision at the crossing.

The following videos show school children crossing the railroad tracks on the way to school from the Kirkland Highlands neighborhood.  The entire neighborhood of over 600 homes is separated by the railroad tracks from the school.  The kids cross over 110th Ave NE and the railroad tracks behind Peter Kirk Elementary to get to school.  As you can see, the kids are walking and running to school.


 The crossing guard raised her concern about kids walking down the tracks to get to school in the morning.  Someone can come to educate the kids about railroad safety, but having worked with middle school kids for 13 years in the past, I’m familiar with typical teen and “kid” behavior.  Kids won’t remember what someone told them three months ago about not walking on the railroad tracks. Walking on the tracks is more of a problem when kids go from neighborhood to neighborhood to see their friends or  walk to downtown Kirkland, not just to school.  There are no crossing guards watching over them at those times.


From the Highlands neighborhood, kids also cross over the railroad tracks in Cotton Hill Park, a few blocks north, to get to Kirkland Junior High.  That crossing is far more concerning because young teens tend to be busy multi-tasking as they walk to school.  Picture typical teen behavior and you see teens talking to friends, talking on cell phones, running, and listening to IPods.  You do not picture kids paying attention as well as they should to their surroundings.  How many teens do you know who think they are invincible and will try to tempt fate by running in front of a train as they are rushing late to school?


If a fence is erected to stop people from walking down the tracks, kids will be cut off from their friends.  Walking paths will be cut off to schools. Neighborhoods will be cut off from each other.  Not only is the rail line as a commuter line a safety hazard, it will hurt the fabric of the community.

  1. Debra – I’m not buying this argument. If a kid cannot be taught not to walk on the railroad tracks …

    I’d actually like to know how close your home is to the tracks? There are a number of people who, like you have decided to give a lot of excuses why the railroad tracks should not be used for rail – and most of them just happen to live right next to the track (and knew they were they when they bought their properties). T

    This sounds like there is a lot of NIMBY going on.

  2. Hi Joe,

    When I first starting writing about the rail/trail issue last fall, I mentioned I live near the tracks.

    I think it’s human nature for many us to not analyze issues unless they directly impact us. This is why people in Redmond, for example, may not be thinking about this rail line. But everyone is King County should be.

    By living close to it, it’s something I’ve had to learn more about. However, the rail issue is one that will affect all taxpayers in King County. The more I learn, the more I am worried about many facets of the rail line. The safety issue is only one of the concerns.

    Here’s another: When was the last time you heard of a train being successfully run and self supporting?

    There are approximately 50 intersections this train will cross on the full line and there is no money in the proposed plans to take care of shoring them up so they can support the increased rail traffic. There is no money designated for the crossing areas.

    The tracks run through parks and wetlands.

    Wilburton Tunnel is coming down, so a train would not be connecting to anything south of Bellevue.

    By the way, in one of your previous comments on another post, you mention light rail. Light rail is not what is being considered at this time. Diesels (DMU) are what is under consideration.

    Have there been any effective ridership studies done?

    I find people pull out the NIMBY card when, in fact, all the issues are not clear to them. It is a knee jerk reaction without knowing all the facts. So Joe, please learn about all the issues involved.

  3. This message was sent to me from Shawn who asked me to post his comment on this article.

    Debbie, Thank you for the videos. I hope that Kirkland and County officials, plus Senators and Representatives, look at the videos you did for one of the schools affected by rail crossings. You did not show the ‘action’ at the Kirkland Jr. High School crossing. Most of the public officials seem to have no clue about the impact that a commuter train would have on this city. They haven’t bothered to walk even in the most critical areas.

    What is most shocking is the low profile shown so far by our own local officials and ‘park people’. They should be fiercely fighting for the conversion of this great, soon-to-be, public asset, into a fabulous long park for the entire Eastside community. I believe the silence is not accidental, but a way to quietly support the concept of running a commuter train along that corridor in the near future.

    The local media has also been practically absent on this debate, except for a few ‘letters to the editor’. Most of what one hears and reads about in the media is about grossly misleading arguments from the train-advocate groups and wild fantasies about how a train will mitigate traffic congestion, while hiding the true cost of their idea. Of course, the reality is that these well-financed groups are businesses interested in getting local and federal money to fix the rails so that they can then develop stations and future new housing projects, while running train services subsidized by regional taxpayers, forever!!

    If all this bothers you, add your voice to that of the Eastside Trail Advocates, who want to see, as soon as possible, a big wide TRAIL/park developed in that corridor for bikers, runners, walkers and skaters of ALL ages. Check ETA’s website or email to find out what’s going on or to join ETA.

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