Recreational users of King County’s public spaces are a step closer to getting a new gem to enjoy.
Earlier this week, the King County Council unanimously approved Executive Ron Sims’ proposal to purchase a priceless corridor in public ownership forever for use as a trail and to preserve its potential for transportation options in the future.
Acquisition of the corridor was first proposed by the executive in 2006. After significant negotiation and collaboration with community partners, the new three-way interlocal agreement calls for the Port of Seattle to buy the Eastside Rail Corridor from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (“BNSF”) for $107 million and for King County to buy an easement from the Port for a trail along the corridor for $1.903 million.
The deal protects the county’s interests by granting an easement for the county’s use of the railbanked portion of the corridor. The county will also serve as the “Interim Trail User” in accordance with guidelines in the National Trails System Act (also known as the “Rails-to-Trails Act”).
“This agreement had a lot of moving parts and players working to get the best outcome for residents, taxpayers, recreational trail users, and the Port and BNSF,” Sims said. “I thank all of the councilmembers for their support and diligence on this issue and for their vote today. The Port and BNSF also deserve credit for all of the work that went into crafting an agreement that works for everyone involved and that ensures dual use of this corridor as both a trail and railway in the future.”
King County has the first opportunity to purchase the corridor should it ever be sold and to purchase the segments of the corridor from Milepost 5 in Renton to Milepost 11.8 in Bellevue, and/or the Redmond Spur.
Although the rails are staying in along the corridor, the easement authorized by council maintains access along the route for bicyclists, walkers and others.
Port commissioners will be investigating the Eastside Rail Corridor for transit and rail use. A regional public process will also be scheduled soon to take recommendations on trail location and design. The public process would hopefully be concluded within a year.