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'Rails to Trails' Plan One Step Closer to Reality

Deborah Wang
02/27/2007

King County is one step closer to getting a new 40-mile-long hiking and biking trail. Yesterday, officials announced they've reached preliminary agreement on a complex three-way deal. KUOW's Deborah Wang reports.

TRANSCRIPT

AT A PRESS CONFERENCE, THE THREE SIDES SIGNED THE AGREEMENT WITH MUCH FANFARE, SAYING NOW THE TOUGH NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE DETAILS CAN BEGIN.

UNDER THE DEAL, THE PORT OF SEATTLE WILL PURCHASE AN UNDERUSED RAIL CORRIDOR FROM BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE RAILWAY. THE PORT WOULD PAY JUST OVER 100 MILLION DOLLARS FOR THE LINE, WHICH STRETCHES FROM RENTON TO SNOHOMISH. THE PORT WOULD THEN HAND THE PROPERTY OVER TO KING COUNTY, IN EXCHANGE FOR CONTROL OF THE KING COUNTY AIRPORT.

MIC DINSMORE, THE PORT'S CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SAYS THE DEAL SAVES THE LAND FROM PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT.

DINSMORE: "We still will retain in the public domain the rail corridor so still in the future when and if it is needed for the movement of passengers or the movement of commerce, it will be there. And had we not had this partnership that would never have happened it would be completely broken apart."

THE 100 MILLION DOLLAR PRICE TAG IS FAR BELOW MARKET VALUE, ALTHOUGH BNSF WILL BE ABLE TO WRITE OFF ANY LOSSES.

CONSERVATIONISTS AND BICYCLE ENTHUSIASTS PRAISED THE DEAL. BUT A GROUP OF LOCAL RAILROAD PRESERVATIONISTS CAME TO YESTERDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE TO DENOUCE IT. AL RUNTE IS WITH THE GROUP "ALL ABOARD WASHINGTON."

RUNTE: "All's we're against is tearing out a viable railroad on the idea that well 20 or 40 years from now, when you are stuck in traffic 12 hours a day instead of six hours a day, well then thank you very much we might bring it back. It's never come back, we lose this track it'll never come back."

THE AGREEMENT GIVES THE PARTIES 6 MONTHS TO FINALIZE THE DEAL. IT MUST BE APPROVED BY BOTH THE KING COUNTY COUNCIL AND THE SEATTLE PORT COMMISSION.

I'M DEBORAH WANG, KUOW NEWS.

© Copyright 2007, KUOW

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