Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Suit Filed Against Seattle Port for Rail Corridor Purchase

Three King County taxpayers have filed suit against the Port of Seattle alleging that port officials overstepped their authority when they used tax dollars last year to purchase an abandoned rail corridor between Renton and Snohomish.

The lawsuit, filed by taxpayers John Allerton, Kenneth Gorohoff and Arthur Lane in King County Superior Court, asks the court to reverse the sale and return any tax money used to pay for it.

Allerton, Gorohoff and Lane claim that Washington state law prohibits port officials from purchasing rail lines outside their port districts unless the rail link is needed to connect the port to interstate tracks. The three allege that the Eastside rail corridor extends outside the King County port district and the port already has connections to the interstate rail system.

The port purchased the 42-mile-long rail corridor last year for roughly $100 million, primarily to keep developers from buying the land, but has yet to determine what to do with it. The port purchase was approved by the Federal Surface Transportation Board.

Port officials have looked at numerous planned uses for the corridor, with the most commonly cited being a plan to develop a pedestrian and bicycle trail along side the track, which would carry interurban commuter trains.

To date, the port has recovered all but $9 million of the purchase price, mainly from selling the rights to various portions of the corridor to local agencies.

The suit names the port, King County, Class I railroad BNSF, Redmond, and port rail operator GNP Rly, Inc as defendants.