King County will take over the BNSF rail line, which runs along the eastern edge of Lake Washington from North Renton to Snohomish. The Port, on behalf of King County, will pay BNSF US$103m for approximately 40 miles of track and will also contribute up to US$66m to King County towards the development of a regional recreational trail, in exchange for the airport.
The County has committed to preserve the option of dual use of the corridor for both trail and transportation use in coming decades, with the possibility of using it for commuter transport if there is sufficient demand to make this economically viable. The group of proposals, dubbed ‘Connections for our Future’, face approval by the King County Council and Seattle Port Commission, and are also subject to regulatory approval.
“I can’t overstate how important these MOUs are for the Port of Seattle, our business partners and the economic health of the Northwest,” said Port of Seattle CEO Mic Dinsmore. “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.”
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. It will also continue to operate Boeing Field as an airport and will assume all of the County’s FAA obligations.