Over a month after the Port of Seattle Commissioners voted to throw a childish tantrum and withhold sale of the Eastside Rail Corridor because they were upset about the plans to build a completely unrelated arena in Seattle, the Commissioners have now approved the sale.
This brings the Eastside Rail-Trail project through Kirkland (and beyond) one step closer. The King County Board will vote on the sale next.
Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett called the 5.75 miles of right-of-way Kirkland’s “equivalent of the Louisiana Purchase,” as it would provide a fantastic walking and biking (and transit?) route directly through the center of the city. Add a connection to the planned 520 trail to Seattle, and you see why this project is such a big deal.
From the Port of Seattle:
The Port of Seattle Commission voted to approve the sale of portions of the Eastside Rail Corridor to King County, as a multi-year process nears the end. Commissioners also agreed to grant King County a permanent easement over a portion of the corridor that still has freight service; the easement will allow King County to develop a recreational trail. The transaction now goes to the King County Council for final approval.
“Though the specifics have changed several times, we’ve been steadfast in the goal: Preserve the corridor and place it into public ownership,” said Commission President Gael Tarleton. “Many agencies joined us to make that goal a reality, and we are grateful for all of their partnership. We look forward to working with our stakeholders around King County to make rails and trails work for all of us.”
In 2003, BNSF Railway announced it intended to divest of the 42-mile corridor. 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; Sound Transit, Puget Sound Energy, and the cities of Kirkland and Redmond joined the effort to preserve the corridor in 2009.
“Today’s vote is evidence that persistence does, in fact, pay off,” said Port CEO Tay Yoshitani. “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.”
Don’t you love that? “We’ve been able to keep the project on the right track.” I’m not sure who “we” is, because the Board was willing to hold the project hostage just to prove a point. That’s not usually how I go about stewarding important regional projects (but then again, maybe that’s why I’m not a Port of Seattle Commissioner).
I’m glad some people at the Port see the importance of this project, and I’m happy to see it move forward.