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King County Council creates regional panel for Eastside Rail Corridor
The Metropolitan King County Council today acknowledged the regional significance of the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) that stretches from from King to Snohomish County, by adopting a legislative package that keeps the former rail line under public control.
“By approving the public’s ownership of the Eastside Rail Corridor, we are planting the seeds for future generations of economic benefits through transportation options,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague who as Chair of the Committee of the Whole, directed the Council’s deliberation on the ERC proposal. “And also livability by expanding health and recreational opportunities within the trails of the corridor.”
“After many years of work by the Council, the Executive, and our regional partners, today’s historic action finally puts the Eastside rail corridor under public ownership,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Just as important, the communities within the corridor will have a voice on its future.”
“This is yet another example of how everyone benefits when we work together, and I look forward to the day that we can all enjoy this major regional asset,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Along with approving a legislative package introduced by the County Executive that authorizes the purchase of more than 15 miles along the ERC, the Council unanimously adopted legislation to establish the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Advisory Council. The Advisory Council will involve stakeholders along the ERC to coordinate the regional planning process for land that could support trails, light rail and/or passenger rail service, and an array of utility services.
“As available land shrinks and population and jobs grow on the eastside and South King County, the value of public ownership of this continuous north-south corridor will continue to increase,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, co-sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “I look forward to the day when transit commuters can travel the corridor alongside bicyclists and pedestrians and will continue working steadfastly to make that vision a reality.”
“This acquisition secures public ownership and use of this unique corridor for the mobility and recreation needs of our communities today and for generations in the future,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert of Redmond. “This rail-and-trail corridor is poised to become an important transportation link for Eastside cities that can accommodate multiple uses such as walking and biking, as well as high-capacity rail. The partnerships this process has built will move this project forward while incorporating the best public benefits.”
“The passage of this legislation paves the way for both rails and trails along the east side of Lake Washington,” said Julia Patterson. “Future generations will benefit from this corridor being able to ride a bike, jog and eventually access rail transit.”
Today’s vote was the final step in the effort to maintain the 42-mile corridor and prevent it from being broken up and sold for private development. What began in 2003 when Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) announced its intention to sell the 42-mile corridor has developed into a process that will involve representatives from government and private stakeholder groups throughout the Eastside.
“I applaud the Executive and the Port of Seattle for working together with our regional partners to keep the Eastside Rail Corridor intact for the public’s benefit,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “I am excited to review the ideas and proposals the newly created ERC Regional Advisory Council develops.”
“The options for the future of this corridor are many – and exciting,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott. “The advisory committee will help ensure future generations will benefit from these railways in the greatest ways possible.”
“Today’s action finalizes public ownership of the irreplaceable Eastside Rail Corridor, ensuring it will be protected and enjoyed by the public for generations to come,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson.
In 2009, when the Council gave the County Executive negotiating authority for a proposed public-private partnership on the corridor, a panel similar to the Advisory Council was envisioned in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the County and Port of Seattle.
The adopted motion creating the Advisory Council calls for the County Executive to appoint to the Advisory Council members representing:
The King County Council;
County Executive (or the executive's designee);
The city of Redmond;
The city of Kirkland;
Puget Sound Energy; and
The goal of the Advisory Council is to oversee the partner planning process including implementing and coordinating the rail, trail and utility uses in the corridor, coordinating with affected cities around local planning and development with the regional uses and overseeing the work of a technical staff work group.
The County Executive and the County Councilmember who represents the majority of the cities directly affected by development of the corridor would serve as co-chairs of the Committee, which would begin meeting in February 2013. A facilitator would be hired to lead the work of the Committee.
Advisory Council members would be encouraged to receive input from a wide variety of voices including representatives of regional partners, local governments in the corridor, community organizations, business owners, adjacent landowners, rail/trail advocates, public health agencies and citizens who are interested in the corridor's development.
The motion calls for preliminary recommendations to be presented to the County Executive by July 31, 2013, and for the Executive to present these recommendations to the County Council by August 30, 2013.
The creation of the Eastside Rail Corridor Regional Advisory Council was part of the adopted legislation regarding the Eastside Rail Corridor. The legislation:
Authorizes the acquisition of a portion of the ERC from the Port of Seattle: The County would acquire 15.6 miles of the Eastside Rail Corridor (ERC) that stretches from Renton to Woodinville, along with a 3.6-mile trail easement from Woodinville to the Snohomish County line.
Authorizes an intergovernmental land transfer agreement with the city of Redmond: The County would relinquish its multipurpose easement (MPE) and railbanking status in return for additional utility easements and a covenant from the City agreeing to assume the County’s trail and railbanking responsibilities.
Authorizes a reciprocal coordination and cooperation agreement with Puget Sound Energy: An agreement with PSE would outline a joint planning process to preserve the County’s trail planning, development, and use with respect to PSE utility facilities, while providing additional protection for existing or new County utilities.