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03 December 2006 @ 06:50 pm
KC Journal: Panel backs trail use for rail corridor  
Panel backs trail use for rail corridor

By Dean A. Radford
Journal Reporter

A regional committee voted Friday to keep the Burlington
Northern rail corridor through the Eastside in public hands for use as a trail,
at least initially.

The vote by the BNSF Corridor Advisory Committee, which met in Bellevue, also leaves open the potential for the corridor to revert to rail in the years ahead.

"The most important thing is that we voted to preserve the corridor for public use," said Julia Patterson, a County Council member from SeaTac, who chairs the committee.

The vote was on a draft recommendation, and the committee will act on its final recommendation to the Puget Sound Regional Council next month.

The 47-mile corridor runs from north Renton into south Snohomish County.

The recommendation before the regional committee has strong support, but the vote wasn't unanimous. Its membership includes public officials from the Eastside and south King County.

There is still some confusion among its members about what exactly the committee is recommending. The recommendation is still in its draft form, and a Renton City Council member said she still has time to get her questions answered.

The committee took votes on the fate of four segments of the corridor. The council member, Marcie Palmer, voted no on the committee's recommendation for the segment from Bellevue to Renton because to her it precluded using the corridor for trains in the next 5 to 10 years.

She's still hoping to keep the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train in Renton, but there's no chance of that happening if the track is gone. Eric Temple, the train's owner, is already talking to Woodinville about moving the jumping off point there.

But keeping the rail possibility open in a shorter time frame "would leave the door open a little more," Palmer said.

Patterson stressed that the draft recommendation keeps the corridor from Bellevue to Renton available for rail use in the future.

Temple's fate likely is sealed anyway because BNSF Railway Co. is going to abandon a section of the line at the Wilburton Tunnel in Bellevue. That will allow the state transportation department to save millions of dollars in construction costs in the Interstate 405 widening project because it wouldn't have to accommodate trains through the project.

The Renton City Council voted to protest the abandonment but has not formally done so. Burlington Northern is addressing some of its concerns about ensuring that The Boeing Co. will continue to get its 737 fuselages delivered to its Renton plant by rail without disruption, according to council president Randy Corman.

Patterson said that issue has been addressed.

"If there were any problems, Boeing would have powerfully weighed into this process," she said.

Dean Radford can be reached at dean.radford@kingcountyjournal.com or 253-872-6719.


Last modified: December 03. 2006 12:00AM