Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Port of Seattle Approves Rail Corridor Sale

The Port of Seattle Commission has voted to approve the sale of portions of its Eastside Rail Corridor to King County, Washington, and also grant the county a permanent easement over a portion of the corridor that still has freight service.

The easement would allow King County to move forward with plans to develop a recreational trail.

BNSF Railway first announced its intention to divest of the 42-mile corridor in 2003. In 2007, the Port of Seattle signed a memorandum of understanding with BNSF, setting the stage for the port’s 2009 acquisition of the corridor and the beginning of the federal rail-banking process. King County has been a partner since 2007; in 2009 Sound Transit, Puget Sound Energy, and the cities of Kirkland and Redmond joined the effort to preserve the corridor.

“Today’s vote is evidence that persistence does, in fact, pay off,” port CEO Tay Yoshitani said. “Through a difficult economic downturn we’ve been able to keep the project on the right track – ensuring that the corridor stays intact and available for the region’s future.”

“Though the specifics have changed several times, we’ve been steadfast in the goal: preserve the corridor and place it into public ownership,” Commission President Gael Tarleton said after the vote. “Many agencies joined us to make that goal a reality. We look forward to working with our stakeholders around King County to make rails and trails work for all of us.”

The transaction, which the port commission approved Aug. 14, now goes to the King County Council for final approval.