King County would buy, not lease, parts of the 42-mile Renton-to-Snohomish rail corridor under the county's latest proposal to give the...

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King County would buy, not lease, parts of the 42-mile Renton-to-Snohomish rail corridor under the county’s latest proposal to give the old freight-rail line new life as a trail and eventual passenger-train route.

The Seattle Port Commission, the county’s partner in buying the corridor from BNSF Railway, on Tuesday authorized the Port’s CEO, Tay Yoshitani, to sign a final deal to save the corridor that links Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville and Snohomish.

The vote came shortly after the commission was briefed in private on a new offer from County Executive Ron Sims. Under that offer, the county would replace 13 miles of track with a temporary trail while a public process begins for figuring out the entire corridor’s long-term future.

“We’re extraordinarily encouraged by the Port action today. I think we are close to reaching a final deal, but we still have a little bit of work to do,” said Sims’ chief of staff, Kurt Triplett.

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Port spokeswoman Charla Skaggs said both staffs are trying to be creative: “We are continuing to negotiate. We haven’t rejected anything, and everything is still on the table.”

Sims had threatened to break off discussions if Port officials didn’t agree by last Friday to removal of the tracks between Renton and Woodinville. Sims wanted the track removed to make it easier to build a hiking and biking trail.

On Friday, the Port suggested tracks be removed between Renton and Bellevue. The county responded Monday night with a proposal that:

• King County buy the six-mile Bellevue-to-Renton segment and seven miles of a Woodinville-to-Redmond spur. Tracks would be removed and replaced by an interim gravel trail.

• The Port buy the remainder of the trail, from Bellevue to Snohomish, leaving the track in place and continuing freight-rail service north of Woodinville.

• The county’s Fisher Flour Mill property on Harbor Island be transferred to the Port after the two jurisdictions agree on a lease for developing trails beside the railroad line north of Bellevue.

The proposal, which still must be ratified by Yoshitani, BNSF and the Metropolitan King County Council, would leave the purchase price for the 42-mile line at $103 million. But instead of the Port paying the full cost, King County would pay $42.5 million and the port would pay $60.5 million.

The county originally planned to spend $44 million on a trail between Renton and Woodinville. The new proposal would redirect most of that money to land acquisition.

Port commissioners made no mention of the county’s proposal when they voted unanimously to authorize Yoshitani to pay as much as $103 million for the rail corridor.

The commission also said he could spend an additional $4 million on overhead, professional services and a contingency for keeping existing track in place.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or

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