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Snohomish County plans to purchase rail corridor

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

Last week, the Snohomish County Council approved the purchase of an almost 12-mile stretch of the Eastside Rail Corridor, leaving the tracks that run through Woodinville the last portion of the rail corridor not owned by the Port of Seattle.

The Snohomish County Council hopes to use the tracks to someday add passenger and excursion trains to nearby cities, according to a press release from the council. The rail corridor will also allow Snohomish County to link its Centennial Trail to King County trails such as Burke-Gilman and Lake Sammamish.

The Snohomish County Council approved the agreement, which should be finalized by mid-2014, with a vote of 3-1. It allows the county to buy all of the rail corridor in Snohomish County for $5 million.

The Eastside Rail Corridor stretches more than 40 miles, from the city of Snohomish to Renton. The Port of Seattle bought the rail corridor in 2009 and, since then, has sold it to other governments. The tracks from Woodinville to Snohomish are currently used for freight traffic.

The cities of Redmond and Kirkland bought the tracks within their cities, and tore them up. The Port still owns 2.6 miles of King County tracks in Woodinville.

Sound Transit bought a small portion of the tracks in Bellevue. King County owns the rest of the rail corridor in the county. In Woodinville, plans to use the rail corridor for a trolley, dinner train or a trail are "all kind of in the scheming and dreaming stage at this point," said Alexandra Sheeks, assistant to the Woodinville city manager, but Snohomish County’s purchase "provides the opportunity to partner with them."

Woodinville City Councilmember Les Rubstello wants Woodinville to purchase the rail corridor within the city limits like Snohomish County just did.

"The Port’s going to be a willing seller, because it’s the last two miles they have," Rubstello predicted.

Woodinville’s biggest goal is to get a dinner train running again, Rubstello said, like the Spirit of Washington dinner train, which ran from Renton to Woodinville from 1993 to 2007. For a dinner train to run between Woodinville and Snohomish, the tracks would have to be upgraded, but Rubstello thinks Snohomish County will be eager to raise the money needed.

Last month, the Woodinville City Council discussed starting a trolley that would run between Woodinville’s two wine districts and downtown. The council is beginning negotiations with King County to get one or two of the five trolleys the county owns, Rubstello said. The trolley could also run to Snohomish, and it wouldn’t require track upgrades.

"A trolley could probably start running tomorrow if we had one," he said.

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