12-14-09 article

Seattle PI

County OK’s plan to buy Eastside route for biking, transit
The King County Council on Monday unanimously approved a plan to spend $26.5 million to buy about 25 miles of an Eastside rail corridor for future transportation and recreation purposes.

The move by the council allows Executive Dow Constantine negotiate contracts and is part of a broader push to buy and preserve the 42-mile BNSF rail corridor between Renton and Snohomish.

The overall plan is to have the Port of Seattle buy the entire corridor by mid December. King County, the City of Redmond and others would then work to buy portions of that corridor to keep it in public ownership.

The funding plan could be paid for by a variety of sources to be explored, including possibly bonds sold next year and backed by the voter-approved Conservation Futures Levy Subfund.

The preservation of the Eastside corridor has been a long time goal. Former County Executive Ron Sims announced in May of 2005 his idea to buy the property and turn it into "the granddaddy of all trails."

Recreation enthusiasts envisioned a trail for hiking and biking but others objected, saying either light rail or heavy rail capacity must be maintained. In May of last year the port and County Council signed off on the idea of developing the corridor for a hiking, biking trail and a freight line – and potentially for transit.