King County Council creates regional panel for Eastside Rail Corridor

On Monday, the King County Council adopted a legislative package that will keep the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC), which stretches from King County to Snohomish County under public control.

"By approving the public's ownership of the Eastside Rail Corridor, we are planting the seeds for future generations of economic benefits through transportation options," said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague, "and also livability by expanding health and recreational opportunities within the trails of the corridor."

Hague directed the council's deliberation on the ERC proposal.

Along with approving a legislative package introduced by the King County Executive Dow Constantine, which authorizes the purchase of more than 15 miles along the ERC, the council unanimously adopted legislation to establish the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Advisory Council. The advisory council will involve stakeholders along the ERC to coordinate the regional planning process for land that could support trails, light rail and/or passenger rail service and an array of utility services.

"This is yet another example of how everyone benefits when we work together, and I look forward to the day that we can all enjoy this major regional asset," said Constantine.

Monday's vote was the final step in the effort to maintain the 42-mile corridor and prevent it from being broken up and sold for private development. What began in 2003 when Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) announced its intention to sell the corridor has developed into a process that will involve representatives from government and private stakeholder groups throughout the Eastside.

In 2009, when the Council gave Constantine negotiating authority for a proposed public-private partnership on the corridor, a panel similar to the advisory council was envisioned in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the county and Port of Seattle.

The adopted motion creating the advisory council calls for Constantine to appoint to the council members representing: King County Council, county executive (or the executive's designee), the City of Redmond, the City of Kirkland, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Sound Transit.

The goal of the advisory council is to oversee the partner planning process including implementing and coordinating the rail, trail and utility uses in the corridor, coordinating with affected cities around local planning and development with the regional uses and overseeing the work of a technical staff work group.

The county executive and the County Council member who represents the majority of the cities directly affected by development of the corridor would serve as co-chairs of the committee, which would begin meeting in February 2013. A facilitator would be hired to lead the work of the committee.

Advisory council members would be encouraged to receive input from a wide variety of voices including representatives of regional partners, local governments in the corridor, community organizations, business owners, adjacent landowners, rail/trail advocates, public health agencies and citizens who are interested in the corridor's development.

The motion also calls for preliminary recommendations to be presented to the county executive by July 31, 2013 and for the executive to present these recommendations to the County Council by Aug. 30, 2013.

The creation of the advisory council was part of the adopted legislation regarding the ERC.

The legislation:

  • Authorizes the acquisition of a portion of the ERC from the Port of Seattle. King County would acquire 15.6 miles of the ERC that stretches from Renton to Woodinville, along with a 3.6-mile trail easement from Woodinville to the Snohomish County line.
  • Authorizes an intergovernmental land transfer agreement with the City of Redmond. The county would relinquish its multipurpose easement (MPE) and railbanking status in return for additional utility easements and a covenant from the city agreeing to assume the county's trail and railbanking responsibilities.
  • Authorizes a reciprocal coordination and cooperation agreement with PSE. An agreement with PSE would outline a joint planning process to preserve the county's trail planning, development and use with respect to PSE utility facilities, while providing additional protection for existing or new county utilities.
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