County Council approves next step in acquisition of BNSF Eastside Rail Corridor

Executive given authority to negotiate additional county interest in transportation corridor

Public ownership of the 42-mile parcel that extends from Renton to Snohomish is closer to becoming reality today with the adoption of an ordinance by the Metropolitan King County Council. The Council has agreed to give the County Executive up to $26.5 million in negotiating authority to assist in the public-private partnership that is purchasing the BNSF Eastside rail corridor.

“Our action today again signals King County’s commitment to joining a partnership of regional stakeholders in bringing this invaluable asset into public ownership for perpetuity,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, prime sponsor of the ordinance and the first to suggest a regional partnership approach to purchasing the corridor. “In an area growing as rapidly as the Eastside cities, having an intact corridor connecting job and population centers will be beneficial for meeting the growing transportation, recreation, and utility needs of our region now and in the future.”

“This is the right move at the right time for the Eastside,” said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “By preserving the BNSF corridor in perpetuity, we are creating exciting transportation and recreation opportunities for the region.”

“We are taking another step forward in our vision to bring this irreplaceable 42-mile corridor into public ownership and to protect it for future generations,” said Chair Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of the legislation.

Under the adopted ordinance, King County will negotiate for additional interest in the corridor. The agreement would cover King County’s portion of a multi-partner deal which is still being negotiated. While making a financial commitment to the purchase of a portion of the corridor, the Council chose to delay the decision on a specific funding source or the uses of the corridor, until the negotiations on the acquisition of the corridor are complete. “I will proceed immediately to negotiate for the preservation of this irreplaceable rail corridor for public hiking, biking and other compatible uses,” said County Executive Dow Constantine. “This far-sighted action by the County Council will help meet the growing need for recreation and transportation choices for generations to come, and I commend the members.”

“The Council’s action today marks a big step forward in realizing a vision for the corridor,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “By putting the land under public ownership, the region can continue working towards a dual-use, high-capacity rails and trails corridor that connects millions of people with their homes and jobs every year.”

“The goal of ensuring that there will be no private development on this vital corridor is in sight,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett. “And we are closer to developing another part of the county's trail system that will allow residents to continue the outdoor activities so vital to our quality of life.”

In 2007, the Port of Seattle agreed to purchase the rail corridor and lease the southern portion of the corridor to King County for both use as a recreational trail and possibly an Eastside transportation corridor. Under a Memorandum of Understanding agreed to last month, King County will join the Port and additional regional partners in sharing the cost of the purchase.

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