From today’s Seattle Times:
After years of talk, Port of Seattle and King County executives signed a final agreement Monday to put a 42-mile Eastside rail corridor into public ownership.
The deal paves the way for a possible combination of freight rail, commuter trains, and biking and hiking trails, but many details remain to be worked out.
And that’s the way it should be. The important thing here was having this rare remaining corridor acquired for public use, rather than being sold off a parcel at a time and lost forever. Deciding what we’re going to do with the corridor—rail or trail or both—was always less urgent than closing a deal with BNSF.
And by the way, while Ron Sims caught a lot of shit from Eastside rail enthusiasts for his intention to tear up the tracks and replace them with a hiking and biking trail, and from nearly everyone for his complicated proposal to swap Boeing Field with the Port in exchange for the rail corridor, it should be remembered that it was his initiative and vision that set this whole thing into motion in the first place. Without Sims’ leadership on this issue there may have never been a serious public effort to acquire this land.
We have this strange political pathology in Washington state in which we constantly complain about the lack of leadership coming from our elected officials, and yet instantly attack them as arrogant the minute they attempt to display any. Sims’ initial proposal may have been shot down, and with good reasons, but he still deserves much of the credit for preserving this corridor for public use.
As for the rail vs trail debate, I’d love to see an Eastside commuter line, but from what I know about the geography and demographics of this corridor, as well as the condition of the existing tracks, I wouldn’t expect it to happen anytime soon. But I’d love to be proven wrong.