This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
The Port of Seattle, we know, offered to buy the corridor from BNSF and then swap it with King County for Boeing Field. The Port was willing to pony up $103M to acquire the line. Has All Aboard Washington come up with a viable offer?
Perhaps, but it’s unlikely. According to Guidestar.org (subscription req’d), AAW had a budget of $31,000 or so in 2002, the last year for which figures are available. For one thing, it’s odd that the Form 990s are so out of date, especially considering that someone from AAW went in and edited the record in March of this year and added the org’s goals for 2007, which include “Preserv[ing] the Eastside Line for some form of passenger rail service instead of ripping it up for a trail.”
But leave that aside. Did an organization with a $31K annual budget and 550 members really plunk down $103M or something close to it? That would have to be involve some serious fundraising. Either that, or the executives at BNSF decided now is a good time to commit hara-kiri at the next shareholders meeting by making one of the more boneheaded business decisions of all time and accepting a much, much lower offer than the one from the Port.
More likely, AAW is making a political statement. They want it known that their membership is eager to have the corridor preserved for rail, and so they’re doing what they can to keep it the issue public. But the one thing that I can’t figure out is this:
Burlington Northern Santa Fe says it wants to sell the line because there isn’t enough business on it. The company’s spokesman, Gus Melonas, said the group’s offer is “under review by senior management.”
Again, bracketing a collective suicide pact among senior management, what’s the offer? The only other thing I can figure is that the folks behind Rethink Rail, who include the more-deep-pocketed Discovery Institute, along with AAW, have gotten some money together. But $103M is a lot of money, even for the creationists and freight-transit-lovers at Discovery.