This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
King County Councilman Larry Phillips wants the BNSF corridor on the Eastside, he just doesn’t think that the County should give up Boeing Field (King County Airport) in exchange.
His stated problems with the Sims land swap boil down to: (a) he wants to keep the airport, and (b) he thinks it’s worth far more than the trail (perhaps five times as much). But it’s actually more complicated than that. Phillips district (PDF), which includes Seattle’s Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods, happens to be right in the airport’s flight path. He’s worried that the Port of Seattle would try to start landing commercial flights there, which would be disruptive for his constituents.
However, he knows that the rail corridor is vital, and that the idea of acquiring it is popular, so he’s trying to convince all the regional municipalities, including the Port, that it’s in their interest to buy the right-of-way without giving up the airport in exchange.
Note how deftly he skirts the issue of commercial flights (and the debate over rail-vs-trail) while simultaneously putting himself in the pro-acquisition camp:
King County keeps the airport we have a proven track record operating and the Port of Seattle has little interest in acquiring; and the region moves swiftly to acquire the rail corridor from BNSF either through a funding partnership or an outright purchase by the Port of Seattle.
Future generations will thank us for our ingenuity as they ride their bikes or take the train through the booming cities on the Eastside.
Clever. Everyone thinks that we should acquire the right-of-way. The question is how do we pay for it. The Port has the money, but they want the airport in exchange. As a Queen Anne resident, I don’t really have a problem with more flights overhead, so I’m less sympathetic to Phillips’ argument on that score. But as a taxpayer, I want to get the best deal possible. So if he’s right, and the airport is actually worth 5x the trail, then obviously we need to find another way to get our hands on it.