The Metropolitan King County Council has authorized a $3.5 million deposit to maintain the county's exclusive negotiations to buy a 47-mile...

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The Metropolitan King County Council has authorized a $3.5 million deposit to maintain the county’s exclusive negotiations to buy a 47-mile rail corridor stretching from Renton to Snohomish County.

With its unanimous approval yesterday, the council now has through August to negotiate with BNSF Railway and to consider all potential uses for the 100-foot-wide corridor, which runs through Bellevue, Kirkland and Woodinville and ends in Snohomish.

The council also agreed to talk with neighbors, rail users such as the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train and others with a stake in the corridor before determining a specific plan.

County Executive Ron Sims initially proposed making the route a major link in the region’s trail system. However, critics questioned ending all rail use along a route that currently carries both freight and dinner-train sightseers.

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If no agreement is reached, the county’s deposit will be refunded. In the meantime, the railroad cannot talk with other parties.

The council plans to spend an additional $300,000 to research the property and to pay for the negotiation’s legal and administrative costs.

Backers of buying the corridor say they want to preserve the Eastside route for public use, either as part of the region’s trail system, or a path for mass transit parallel to Interstate 405, or a combination of the two uses.

The corridor would connect with the Sammamish River Trail, which links with the Burke-Gilman Trail, and also would tie into the Centennial Trail between Snohomish and Arlington.

The county has been in talks regarding the corridor since late last year, and in exclusive negotiations with BNSF to buy it since May.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com