Sound Transit moves to secure key land for East Link light rail — and easement for future access to 37 miles of the Eastside rail corridor

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1.1-mile stretch of former BNSF track is necessary for all East Link routes under evaluation

The Sound Transit Board today approved the purchase of 1.1 miles of former BNSF right of way in the City of Bellevue needed for the upcoming extension of East Link light rail service to Bellevue and Redmond.

The purchase of the key property from the Port of Seattle supports Sound Transit's work to start construction of East Link in 2015. Included in the purchase package offered by the Port is an easement that provides access to 37 miles of the rail corridor between Woodinville and Renton for other potential high-capacity transit investments in the future.

"East Link light rail will provide a long-awaited mass transit connection between the two largest population and employment centers in the state," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. "It's exciting to move forward with this key real estate transaction for East Link, and at the same time secure easements that provide access to the entire corridor for future transit projects."

The Board's approval of the purchase, with a price of $13.8 million, follows a non-binding memorandum of understanding between the Port of Seattle, Sound Transit and other parties that was reached in 2009. In addition to the Sound Transit Board, the transaction is also subject to upcoming review by the Port of Seattle Commission.

All or a portion of the 1.1-mile segment under the purchase agreement is needed for the Segment C (Downtown Bellevue) and Segment D (Bel Red/Overlake) project alternatives being evaluated in the East Link Light Rail Project Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Sound Transit requested and received approval from the Federal Transit Administration for a "protective acquisition" before the FTA issues a Record of Decision approving a final East Link alignment. Sound Transit is scheduled to adopt the final alignment this summer.

Sound Transit has obtained an appraisal of the value of the property interests to be acquired and requested FTA approval of the appraisal. Sound Transit's obligation to close the purchase transaction is contingent on receipt of FTA approval.

In addition to the 37-mile easement that is part of the transaction, Sound Transit will also receive rights to access the portion of the rail corridor located within Redmond's city limits, allowing for future construction and operation of a light rail extension currently under evaluation in downtown Redmond. The City of Redmond will convey this easement at the time Sound Transit closes its transaction with the Port of Seattle.