BNSF Rail Corridor sale - Conservation Futures Tax questioned as source of funds


The sale of the BNSF corridor seemed like a done deal. The news media reported the sale of the BNSF line to The Port of Seattle at the close of 2009 with plans to sell the line to King County in 2010. But now some question how the sale will be funded.

By Debra Sinick

Keith Ervin of the Seattle Times said,

After acquiring the rail line (which the Port has now done), the Port would sell the southern portion to King County and other buyers.

According to the news media, King County had planned to use funds from The Conservation Futures Fund to pay for the purchase. All was well and good on Seattle's eastside.  The rail line might be developed as a trail with the possibility of future rail, if needed.

The Bellevue Reporter stated in a November, 2009 article:

County Executive-elect Dow Constantine said the agreement will fulfill a promise to the region that the Eastside Rail Corridor will receive long-term protection from development and that it will be made available for recreational uses.

“By keeping this key transportation and recreational corridor in public ownership, we are making a major commitment to our shared future in King County,” Constantine said.

However, a King County official recently said the County Conservation Futures funds slated to purchase the line can only be used for dedicated green space, not if there's the possibility of a future rail line.

Herein, lies the dilemma.  The line must be rail banked to meet federal requirements.  So the Conservation Futures Fund might not be the source of funds to buy the rail line.

Conservation Futures Tax (CFT) levy funds are collected from property taxes levied throughout King County and its cities for the purchase and permanent protection of open space lands.

Is there a private group working very hard to put a commuter line on the rail line? Most people do not realize there’s an active group out there hard at work, hoping to acquire the rights to put a commuter rail line on the existing tracks.  The talk is to put a commuter line on the tracks that currently exist, even though they are in poor repair.

So here are my questions:

  • Will King County close on the deal and buy the rail line?
  • How will this acquisition be funded?
  • Will the line become a trail, with the line rail banked for possible future motorized travel?
  • Will a private concern put Commuter rail, DMU’s, Diesel Motor Units, not light rail on the line?
  • Will the line become a dual use trail/train?
  • Will the proper public process be followed to determine the best use of the line?

How can you find out about the future of the BNSF rail line?

Join the Eastside Trail Advocates at: The Houghton Fire Station 6602 108th Ave NE, Kirkland February 10th at 7 PM Join Eastside Trail Advocates on Facebook to be learn about the latest updates.