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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Port of Seattle to acquire BNSF rail corridor

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The Port of Seattle Commission approved a Memorandum of Understanding with King County and BNSF that will result in the Port's acquisition and receipt by donation of the 42-mile Eastside rail corridor in King and Snohomish counties from the railroad. Acquisition of the southern corridor for the public is one of the largest and most significant in the history of the federal rail-banking program.

Under this MOU, the Port would lease the corridor to King County, which would then develop a major public-access trail on the southern portion of the corridor that is within the County. The trail would connect to approximately 130 miles of existing trails and to sidewalks and streets in Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Woodinville.

Key points in the MOU are:

• The Port's acquisition for $103 million and receipt by donation of the corridor consisting of the freight corridor north of Woodinville to the City of Snohomish and the corridor south of Woodinville to Renton, together with a spur to Redmond.

• The Port's intent to negotiate a long-term lease on the property with King County so that the County can develop biking and walking trails from Renton to Woodinville.

• Commercial freight use will continue on the section from Woodinville to Snohomish.

• Transfer of the Fisher Flour Mill site located on Harbor Island from the County to the Port.

• The County agrees to consult with the Port regarding future significant development at King County International Airport (KCIA).

"The Port Commission supports this agreement because it preserves a critical transportation corridor in public ownership, ensuring that future transportation needs can be met as the east side of King County continues to grow," said Port Commission President John Creighton. "And in the interim, we can help the County provide an important amenity for our citizens."

"This is a legacy agreement that will contribute to people's quality of life forever," said King County Executive Ron Sims. "The Port is making an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime investment for the people and economic mobility of the region. The commissioners' foresight for the future as demonstrated by this vote is visionary."

An important element of the transaction for the Port is the transfer of the Fisher Flour Mill site, near Terminal 10. "This property is strategically located near other Port holdings on Harbor Island, and it makes perfect sense for the Port to own it," said Port CEO Tay Yoshitani, "And it helps make the deal a win-win for all parties."

The Port and the County will continue advocating for improvements to freight mobility in the region.

"BNSF looks forward to continuing to work with King County and now the Port of Seattle to advance their plans for the region and is pleased that this BNSF right of way can continue to serve the public and contribute to advancing their goals for the future of the corridor," said BNSF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew K. Rose.

The MOU calls for the County and the Port to develop a 'consultative process' for considering major capital improvements at KCIA that would result in substantial regional impacts.

The County will construct a regional trail on the Eastside corridor in a way that considers future transportation needs of the region. Trail development is estimated to cost $44 million.

The details outlined in the MOU will be submitted for approval by the Metropolitan King County Council and the Port Commission no later than December 11, with final closing of the transaction by July 2008.

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