Sound Transit purchases land for East Link light rail and 37-mile easement for future access to Eastside rail corridor

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Purchase from Port of Seattle is part of a long-term partnership to create major public benefits from the abandoned BNSF corridor

Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle today announced they have finalized Sound Transit's purchase of 1.1 miles of former BNSF track in Bellevue for construction of East Link light rail, as well as easements for future access to 37 miles of the Eastside rail corridor.

"Building East Link will create an estimated 40,000 direct and indirect jobs for our region while establishing a long-awaited mass transit connection across Lake Washington," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "Thanks to the strong partnership between Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle, this transaction not only acquires essential property for East Link, but secures easements that could reduce the costs of future transit expansions."

"By partnering with agencies like Sound Transit, the port has been able to protect a rail corridor that could prove crucial to the region's future growth," said Port of Seattle Commission President Gael Tarleton. "The port's Century Agenda strategic plan calls for the creation of 100,000 new jobs in 25 years, and partnerships like this one ensure that as a region, we are ready."

Sound Transit's $13.8 million purchase from the Port of Seattle supports Sound Transit's work to start construction of East Link light rail. The 37-mile easement was also part of the purchase package offered by the Port of Seattle. The easement provides the ability to consider future voter-approved rail transit investments between Woodinville and Renton. Sound Transit would need to build new tracks to support the safety features and operating speeds needed for passenger rail service.

The Sound Transit Board voted to approve the purchase in 2011 following a 2009 non-binding memorandum of understanding that was negotiated between the Port of Seattle, Sound Transit and other parties.

In addition to the 37-mile easement, Sound Transit also received rights to access the portion of the rail corridor located within Redmond's city limits, allowing for future construction of a light rail extension between the city's Overlake and downtown areas. Last year Sound Transit identified a route for building the extension at such time funding becomes available.

"This transaction gets the residents of Redmond, Bellevue and the entire Eastside closer to enjoying congestion-free transportation on fast and efficient light rail trains," said Sound Transit Board Member and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. "Longer term, we're also thrilled that this purchase supports the priority of extending Link all the way to Downtown Redmond."

The port worked for several years to acquire the corridor to place it in public ownership. Doing so preserves an irreplaceable transportation asset for the region. Without the port's involvement to secure the corridor, it could have been sold piecemeal to private owners and lost to public use forever.

Sound Transit's transaction and plans for constructing East Link comply with requirements of the national rail banking program to maintain the ability and sufficient space for the potential resumption freight rail operations on the corridor.