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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


County funding for BNSF Eastside rail corridor proposed

Summary

Approximately 25 miles of the BNSF Eastside rail corridor will be put in public ownership in perpetuity under a $26 million funding proposal transmitted today by King County Executive Kurt Triplett to the King County Council for approval.

Story

Approximately 25 miles of the BNSF Eastside rail corridor will be put in public ownership in perpetuity under a $26 million funding proposal transmitted today by King County Executive Kurt Triplett to the King County Council for approval.

The Executive proposes use of the voter approved Conservation Futures Levy to acquire the sections of corridor between Renton and Woodinville and the seven mile spur between Woodinville and Redmond with the exception of the section inside the City of Redmond. Partners in the historic deal will purchase easements on the property for transportation and utility use.

"Voters approved the Conservation Futures Levy for opportunities like this that enhance our quality of life," said King County Executive Kurt Triplett. This project is an unprecedented opportunity to address the region's growing needs in recreation, transportation and basic infrastructure."

"This agreement will fulfill our promise to the region that the Eastside Rail Corridor will receive long-term protection from development and that it will be made available for recreational uses," said County Executive-elect Dow Constantine. "By keeping this key transportation and recreational corridor in public ownership, we are making a major commitment to our shared future in King County."

"This corridor has many long term regional implications," said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. "The announcement today provides needed stability to thoughtfully consider the many options before us for the use of this area."

The proposed appropriation would cover King County's portion of a multi-partner deal (external link) which is still being negotiated. In exchange for the funding, King County would receive an additional interest in the BNSF Eastside rail corridor between Renton and Woodinville, and from Woodinville to the Redmond city limits, subject to easements for public utilities and public transportation. Bonds for the project would be sold in 2010 and backed by the Conservation Futures Levy Subfund.

The Port of Seattle, City of Redmond, Sound Transit, Puget Sound Energy, and the Cascade Water Alliance are the other partners in preserving the 42 mile corridor that extends from Renton to Snohomish.

The Conservation Futures money comes from a countywide property tax, which by state law can only be used to purchase open space or resource lands such as greenbelts, wildlife habitat and trails, for the benefit of the people of King County. Recommendations on parcels for purchase are made by a Citizen Oversight Committee in a competitive application process.

"We brought together a great consortium of partners to bring the BNSF corridor into public ownership for perpetuity," said Councilmember Larry Phillips. "Securing this right-of-way is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the public to own a continuous transportation and recreation corridor between some of the region's fastest growing cities and paralleling congested I-405."

"King County has been working to preserve this corridor for four years and the pieces have never quite come together perfectly," said Executive Triplett. "Today, the persistence of former Executive Sims, our staff, the council, private parties to the deal, and community stakeholders is finally paying off and the people of King County will benefit."

"The partners involved in this project have been 'laying the tracks' for many years to make this happen," said Councilmember Julia Patterson. "Today's announcement celebrates a big step forward in realizing a vision for a corridor that has the potential to connect millions of people and jobs in East and South King County through high-capacity rail and a foot and bicycle trail."

The Executive's transmittal requests the appropriation with a provision which prohibits expenditure or encumbrance of the funds until the King County Council approves, by ordinance, the contracts needed to acquire, develop and maintain additional property interests in BNSF's Eastside Rail Corridor. Those negotiations are underway with the goal that the relevant contracts will be ready for review in early 2010.

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King County provides regional services to 1.9 million residents including more than 340,000 people living in unincorporated areas. Services include Metro transit, public health, wastewater treatment, courts, jails, prosecutors, public defenders, community and social services, the King County International Airport, and local services such as police protection, roads services and garbage collection. King County is the 14th largest county in the nation, covering 2,134 square miles, 39 cities, 760 lakes and reservoirs, and six major river systems with 3,000 miles of streams.



King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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