SOURCE: BNSF Railway Company

February 26, 2007 18:25 ET

County, Port, BNSF Announce Signed Memoranda on Land Deal

Next Step in Securing Region's Economic and Recreation Future

SEATTLE, WA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 26, 2007 -- Documents signed today by leaders of King County, the Port of Seattle and the BNSF Railway Co. move an important step closer to saving an invaluable Eastside rail corridor for public use, and to transportation improvements that could mean billions of dollars in economic activity.

King County Executive Ron Sims, Port of Seattle CEO Mic Dinsmore and BNSF Chairman, President and CEO Matt Rose today signed two memoranda of understanding (MOUs) formalizing proposals to bring a unique and significant Eastside rail corridor into County ownership in exchange for the transfer of King County International Airport to the Port. The parties also agreed to cooperate in the siting and development of an intermodal freight facility to serve the region.

"This is a very significant step forward in meeting our future transportation needs, boosting economic development, and supporting recreation," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who attended a press conference where the MOUs were signed. "This proposal is important to the economic and environmental lifeblood of our region, and I applaud King County, the Port of Seattle and BNSF for showing real leadership in striving to transform this vision into reality."

BNSF's Rose said the company wants to work with the community to ensure that the corridor remains intact and is preserved for the benefit of the public.

"Transportation is among the most significant issues faced by our nation," said Rose. "These MOUs demonstrate that this region is in the forefront of addressing transportation issues, to the benefit of the people of this area and the regional economy. We look forward to continuing to work with government and other agencies to address freight-mobility issues in the region."

King County will take over the BNSF rail line along the eastern edge of Lake Washington. The rail corridor runs from North Renton to Snohomish. The Port, on behalf of King County, will pay BNSF $103 million for approximately 40 miles of the rail line. The Port also will contribute up to $66 million to King County toward development of a major new regional trail, in exchange for the airport.

At the same time, the County commits to preserve the option of dual use of the corridor for both trail and transportation use in coming decades. A recent, in-depth study by the Puget Sound Regional Council found that at present, there is not enough demand for commuter transit along the route to make the line economically viable. That could change in the future.

The group of proposals, dubbed Connections for our Future, faces approval by the King County Council and Seattle Port Commission, and also are subject to regulatory approval.

"The Connections proposal started with the simple idea of seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to add a 40-mile regional transportation and trail corridor to King County's 175-mile trail network," Sims said. "It evolved into a much bigger plan to set the table for the economy of tomorrow. Today's signing marks the turning point of this proposal from a concept into a tangible reality."

"I can't overstate how important these MOUs are for the Port of Seattle, our business partners, and the economic health of the Northwest," Port CEO Dinsmore said. "By helping surface and rail traffic locally, they will make sure we are competitive with other regions in the movement of waterborne international trade. They also consolidate airport operations in the region under one governing body."

In addition, the memoranda include several other major economic development components:

--  King County will support funding from the state of Washington to make
    rail improvements to Stampede Pass that will allow double-stacked rail cars
    to use that route to cross the state.
--  The Port will join with King County and BNSF to identify property
    suitable for a major intermodal rail facility in the Central Puget Sound
    region. Once that site is found and acquired, the Port will purchase the
    Fisher Flour Mill on Harbor Island from King County.
--  While the acquisition of the property is from North Renton to
    Snohomish, King County will have right of first refusal to purchase the
    remaining property from milepost 0 to milepost 5, should BNSF decide to
    sell it.
--  Although the railroad property will be developed initially as a hiking
    and biking trail, the parties recognize that it may in the future be
    reactivated for other transportation uses, such as regional commuter rail.
--  The Port will continue operating Boeing Field as an airport and will
    assume all of the County's FAA obligations. The Port anticipates no
    immediate changes to the airport's operations.

The MOUs signed today set out financial and legal terms and conditions of the transactions, commit the parties to work together to bring the agreement to fruition, and will guide the writing of definitive agreements in upcoming months.

The texts of the MOUs can be found on the King County web site at:

Contact Information

  • Contacts:

    Sandeep Kaushik
    King County

    David Schaefer
    Port of Seattle

    Gus Melonas