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November 01, 2006

Rails to Trails critical for region

One only needs to look at the popularity of the Burke Gilman trail in Seattle to appreciate the value and popularity of bicycle and walking trails in our region.  Negotiations from King County must move forward with the BNSF Railroad to acquire and make the 47-mile rail line on the Eastside publicly owned. The critical part of this issue is the ability of a public agency to have the resources to convert the 47-mile rail line into public ownership as part of the national “rails to trails” program.  If King County or another public agency fails to act, this virtually unused rail line will be sold to private interests and the public will be the big loser. The possible deal just announced by King County and the Port of Seattle makes sense on many different levels.  King County gains the financial means to acquire the trail by using an existing asset, and our region benefits by consolidating our major airports under a single management system.  The idea that the two airports are competing and that King County airport is losing money only hurts the taxpaying public in the long run. The critical part of this issue is the ability of a public agency to have the resources to convert the 47-mile rail line into public ownership as part of the national “rails to trails” program.  If King County or another public agency fails to act, this virtually unused rail line will be sold to private interests and the public will be the big loser. The possible deal just announced by King County and the Port of Seattle makes sense on many different levels.  King County gains the financial means to acquire the trail by using an existing asset, and our region benefits by consolidating our major airports under a single management system.  The idea that the two airports are competing and that King County airport is losing money only hurts the taxpaying public in the long run. What about the idea of making the 47 mile trail a transportation corridor for commuter rail?  Trying to implement this now would be costly and impractical, and only stymie the process of creating public ownership of the rail corridor.  However future commuter rail or light rail could be considered with “rail-banking.” Where the trail can be converted back to rail if there is a determined need.  The public doesn’t often have the benefit of a closer examination of the costs of creating mass transit, where costs that are often driven up substantially by the need to purchase privately owned land to build the rail line. As a region we must focus on creating funding for existing transit projects.  The Metro Transit Now proposal to be decided in two weeks is a critical first step in improving bus service in King County.  Sound Transit and the RTID will be critically important next year for transit.  After we pass these important measures as voters, I’ll be the first one to be looking for new funding ideas.

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Posted by EzraBasom on November 1, 2006 at 06:38 PM in Policy | Permalink

Comments

Ezra,

Thanks so much. I appreciate your perspective on transit. Sometimes I think we don't pay sufficient attention to public transit in our push for alternative energy. Both are critical.

Posted by: Lynn | Nov 2, 2006 11:20:17 AM

I dont have any problem with KC getting the rails, however, they should not rip out the rail lines - if they do so and put trails in they will never be able to convert them to future mass transit.

Posted by: Dean | Nov 2, 2006 11:43:57 AM

Can we do both? Can we put trails in and keep the rails without using them for the moment?

Posted by: Lynn | Nov 2, 2006 10:17:52 PM

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