5-12-08 article

Final OK for $107 million rail-line deal

Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004408790_webraildeal13m.html

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter

Port of Seattle and King County executives signed a final deal this morning that will put a 42-mile Eastside rail corridor into public ownership.

The deal paves the way for a possible combination of freight rail, commuter trains and biking and hiking trails, but many details remain to be worked out.

With the spectacular Wilburton Trestle as a backdrop, Port CEO Tay Yoshitani and County Executive Ron Sims made official the deal under which the Port will pay BNSF Railway $107 million for the Renton-to-Snohomish rail line.

Port Commission President John Creighton said the Port wanted to make sure the rail line wasn’t sold off in pieces and felt the corridor could support the goal of moving people and goods.

King County will pay the Port $1.9 million for an easement to build a trail from Woodinville to Renton and Woodinville to Redmond. The county and Port will negotiate trail alignment only after a public process on uses of the corridor that will start soon and will finish early next year.

BNSF CEO Matt Rose signed the deal earlier.

Yoshitani and Sims signed the agreement at Bellevue Fire Station 7 shortly after the Port Commission met at Bellevue City Hall and unanimously approved the deal. The Metropolitan King County Council gave its OK last week.

"One day very soon, I hope we will see bicyclists commuting to work as well as hikers and strollers using the corridor. … I hope to have the opportunity to be one of the first users of the trail," said Yoshitani, who lives in Bellevue.

After nearly five years of discussion about how the public could buy the rail line that BNSF no longer wanted, Sims said, "In the end we’ve ensured that this irreplaceable 42-mile corridor stays in public ownership and is not broken up and sold piecemeal for private development."

The deal was praised both by trail and commuter-rail advocates.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com