Sound Transit sues to condemn land held hostage by City of Renton
Sound Transit filed suit today to condemn a small strip of vacant land
in Renton needed for track and signal upgrades, which will clear the way
for expansion of Sound Transit's commuter rail service later this year.
The land, appraised at $30,000, had been priced at as much as $100
million by a city of Renton official.
The Renton City Council is withholding an easement for track and signal
improvements that would allow for a third Sound Transit Sounder run
between Tacoma and Seattle this year. The city's staff had earlier
stated the land was not needed by the city and recommended the city
council approve the easement for $30,000.
"We have been able to work through issues like this cooperatively with many other cities around the region," said Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims. "While it is unfortunate this has not been the case with Renton, we cannot allow this to hold up progress on the region's transit system, so with this move, we are continuing to move forward."
Sound Transit has evaluated other options for completing the necessary track work; the least expensive alternative to condemning the property in question would cost taxpayers within the transit district an additional $800,000.
"When there is an affordable option on the table for moving ahead with improvements in commuter rail service, I can't in good conscience recommend that our Board spend that kind of money, especially when Renton had already agreed with the easement price," said Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl.
Renton's concerns are driven primarily by an unrelated bus project-direct access ramps at N. 8th that would serve commuters across East and South King County. Sound Transit suspended work on this as a stand-alone project and is currently working with WSDOT to fold the N. 8th Direct Access project into the larger I-405 Corridor project. The city has said funds budgeted for those projects, if they are not built, should be spent solely within the Renton city limits.
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.