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Eastside Rail Corridor

The port’s primary mission is to create economic vitality in the region. This once-in-a-lifetime investment preserves a valuable transportation asset for the region, maintains current freight rail service, and secures the corridor for potential future freight rail use supporting the region’s economy.

The port is also interested in optimizing the use of this corridor for other transportation modes compatible with freight rail.

Without the port’s involvement to secure the corridor, the corridor could have been sold piecemeal to private owners and lost to public use forever.

Eastside_rail_091105_07sm.jpgSigning the agreement from left to right are Stephen Reynolds, CEO, Puget Sound Energy; Kurt Triplett, King County Executive; Tay Yoshitani, CEO, Port of Seattle; and Joni Earl, CEO, Sound Transit

Documents

(Summer 2008) (audio file)

 

 

 

 

 

Press Releases

2009 Press Releases
Press Releases from 2009 found in Archives
Port CEO Signs Agreements for Eastside Rail Corridor
May 12, 2008

Port CEO Signs Agreements for Eastside Rail Corridor

Yoshitani, King County Executive Ron Sims also finalize easement for trail

After a special Commission meeting granting him authority to do so, Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani signed an agreement today with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, acquiring the 42-mile rail corridor located in King and Snohomish Counties. Yoshitani was joined by King County Executive Ron Sims in signing an interlocal agreement, granting King County an easement to develop a trail on 32 miles of the corridor.
"Today's signing is the culmination of years of efforts to bring the corridor into public ownership," said Commission President John Creighton. "As a kid, my school bus took me past the Wilburton trestle every day - it is particularly meaningful to me that the Port was able to preserve this irreplaceable asset in public ownership, which will be a great benefit to Eastside communities and to the entire County for generations to come. Without the Port's investment, the corridor would likely have been fragmented and lost to the public forever. I am also very pleased that we are able to partner with King County to ensure that the corridor can be used in multiple ways, both now and in the future."
Yoshitani and Sims signed the agreements in Bellevue, with the Wilburton trestle serving as the backdrop for the ceremony. "The trestle serves as the perfect symbol for our partnership," said Yoshitani. "For decades, the bridge supported jobs and commerce on the Eastside. Today, the trestle stands as a symbolic bridge to the corridor's future."
The Port is acquiring the corridor from BNSF for $107 million. King County is contributing $2 million toward the purchase price, and is granted an easement for trail development on the southern segment of the corridor. The northern portion of the corridor will continue to be used for freight service.
Now that the agreement documents have been signed, the Surface Transportation Board must approve the Port and King County's application to "rail-bank" portions of the corridor. The Surface Transportation Board is expected to grant approval in the fall of this year. At that time, the Port will begin a public process to gain input on how King County citizens would like to see the rail corridor used.
Port to Begin Negotiations for Freight Rail Operator
September 25, 2008

Port to Begin Negotiations for Freight Rail Operator

BNSF selects GNP/Ballard to serve Snohomish County shippers

The Port of Seattle announced today that it will begin negotiations with GNP/Ballard for freight service operation on the northern portion of the Eastside rail corridor. GNP/Ballard, a partnership between Byron Cole, who operates the Ballard Terminal Railroad, and Tom Payne, owner of GNP Railway, will pay the Port for use of the land, which runs from Snohomish and Woodinville.
The Port of Seattle is acquiring the corridor from BNSF, who selected the short line operator. Any contract between the Port and GNP/Ballard will not be finalized until the transfer of the corridor is complete.
The Port is acquiring the corridor from BNSF for $107 million. King County will contribute $2 million toward the purchase price in return for an easement for trail development on the southern segment of the corridor. The Surface Transportation Board is expected to grant approval in the fall of this year. The Port will then begin a public process to gain input on how King County citizens would like to see the rail corridor used.
Port, BNSF to Close Rail Corridor Deal in Early 2009
October 28, 2008

Port, BNSF to Close Rail Corridor Deal in Early 2009

Credit market difficulties lead to delay

Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani announced today that the Port will not finalize acquisition of the BNSF Eastside Rail Corridor until the first quarter of 2009. The two agencies agreed to the delay because of ongoing difficulties in the nation's municipal bond markets. The Port intends to sell municipal bonds to finance the $107 million acquisition.
“Many local governments across the nation are delaying or postponing projects because they can't sell the bonds to finance them right now,” said Yoshitani. “The Port remains committed to placing the corridor into public ownership. BNSF understands the situation and agreed to this short delay. We look forward to finalizing the deal next year.”
The Port of Seattle announced final plans to acquire the 42-mile corridor in November 2007. Currently, the transaction is before the Surface Transportation Board, which must approve the transaction. King County will contribute $2 million for an easement to develop a trail along the property. Once the deal is final, the Port will host a public process to determine how the corridor will be used for both transportation and recreation in the future.

Short-line Operator Selection Process
Why is a short-line operator being chosen?
The Eastside Rail Corridor has two portions: the northern portion, between Snohomish and Woodinville, and the southern portion, which stretches from Woodinville to Renton and includes the Redmond spur. Under the terms of the acquisition agreement, BNSF agreed to select a third-party operator to maintain the operation. The operator will pay the Port of Seattle for the rights to utilize the land and will provide freight rail service for shippers in Snohomish County.
What is the selection process?
As part of the acquisition process, BNSF issued a request for proposals earlier this year. BN hosted a bidder’s conference, with attendees from area shippers, the Port, the City of Snohomish, and Snohomish County. BNSF invited 19 organizations to bid; six companies attended the conference and expressed interest in operating the service. Although two bids were received, one was not responsive to the terms of the RFP.

After consulting with the Port, BNSF chose GNP/Ballard, a partnership between Byron Cole of Ballard Terminal Railroad and Tom Payne of GNP Railway. The Port will begin negotiations with GNP/Ballard shortly.
What about the excursion or dinner train?
According to the terms of the RFP, any operator applying for a license to run freight service may also operate an excursion train. Initially, the train could run between Snohomish and the wineries (Woodinville area). The Port also asked for proposals for an excursion train that, depending on the outcome of the public process, could eventually travel between Snohomish and farther south than the wineries.
Will the operator provide commuter rail service?
No. Commuter rail is not included in this proposal. King County citizens will have the opportunity to provide feedback on all uses, including commuter rail, during the upcoming public process. In addition, the Puget Sound Regional Council and Sound Transit are conducting a feasibility study for commuter rail service to the Eastside.
The Sound Transit package on the November ballot contains $50 million partnership contribution toward development of commuter rail for the Eastside; the Port expects that one or more parties will come forward with proposals depending on the results of the PSRC/Sound Transit study.
Any agreements for operation of freight rail will require that future commuter rail be accommodated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the Eastside Rail Corridor?
The Eastside Rail Corridor consists of a 42 mile rail corridor stretching from the city of Renton to the city of Snohomish, with an eight mile rail spur running between the cities of Woodinville and Redmond. The rail corridor passes through the cities of Newcastle, Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland, Woodinville, Maltby, Snohomish and Redmond.
Q: Why did BNSF sell the rail line?
BNSF, driven by increasing maintenance costs and declining freight use and revenues, has planned to divest the rail corridor since 2003. The rail line is not economically viable for BNSF to continue to operate it.
Q: Why does the Port want to secure the corridor in public hands?
The Port’s primary mission is to create economic vitality in the region. This once-in-a-lifetime investment preserves a valuable transportation asset for the region, maintains current freight rail service, and secures the corridor for potential future freight rail use supporting the region’s economy.

The Port is also interested in optimizing the use of this corridor for other transportation modes compatible with freight rail.

Without the Port’s involvement to secure the corridor, the corridor could have been sold piecemeal to private owners and lost to public use forever.

Parts of the corridor were used in the last century for mining and in transporting timber. In recent years, annual freight car loads on the line have declined dramatically to approximately 900 freight car loads per year. In comparison, Seattle’s main line handles 500,000 freight car loads annually. In February, 2008 BNSF ran its last trains to the Boeing plant in Renton before removing one mile of track around the Wilburton Tunnel in South Bellevue, as part of WSDOT’s widening of I-405. The widening project is expected to be complete in late 2009.

Freight uses between Bellevue and Woodinville were phased out in November 2008.

Currently, the northern portion, located between Woodinville and the city of Snohomish, is used as a freight corridor. The Puget Sound region is highly dependent on the efficient movement of freight, and this agreement ensures that freight rail use along the northern section will continue. The Port will contract with a third-party short-line operator to continue service on the northern portion of the line; that operator is not yet selected by the BNSF.