The Port of Seattle had announced today they will suspend their purchase of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Eastside Rail property due to the bad credit market. The Port had planned to make the $107 million purchase in December of last year, but postponed that when credit markets took a turn for the worse and their ability to raise capital was severely weakened. The Port has also suspended a plan to build a $413 million parking garage (apologies, that post did not take the Blogger to WordPress transition well) late last year.
The Port of Seattle still does plan on purchasing the 42-mile right of way at some future date after the credit market issues have been resolved. King County Executive Ron Sims had worked a deal with the Port for a swap of Boeing Field for the BNSF corridor and some cash. Sims had wanted the line to be converted into a bike and jogging trail, much like old interurban rights-of-way had been converted previously. The County Council never gave the deal final approval. (It seemed Ron Sims knew about the County’s budget problems for a lot longer than he let on).
The Eastside BNSF that was last used for passenger service in 2007, when the Spirit of Washington dinner line stopped operating. Sections of the line had continued to be used for freight, particularly in the Woodinville and Bellevue areas, but that activity has since ceased as well. Sound Transit released a cost estimate of operating commuter passenger rail service on the corridor last month. Shortly after, I argued that commuter rail on the Eastside BSNF line will never materialize due to a very high cost-per-ride estimate. The line was severed in South Bellevue to make way for I-405 widening, and a new tunnel or overpass of the freeway would have to be completed for the north-south traffic to be able to run the length of the line.