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Trails not part of Snohomish portion

Harvey Field
Published:09/15/2008 Local
Trails not part of Snohomish portion    Print Snohomish Times    
Trails not part of Snohomish portion

SNOHOMISH - The citizen committee, Rails and Trails, met today Sept. 15th. Key speaker was Mike Merit from the Port of Seattle and Peter Kamp from the Snohomish County Executive's office.  The meeting started with Mr. Merit giving a synopsis of where we stand as of today in regards to the purchase of the Eastside rail corridor and the RFP for a third party operator (TPO). The port expects answers from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) by the end of November.

Some facts of what's currently expected with the corridor, rail will be left in the entire length of the purchase. The King County portion has had a trail easement purchased by King County for 2 million dollars. The King County portion of track does not anticipate any rail traffic at this point, even though the track will remain. Woodinville north to Snohomish will continue as an active track for freight and possible excursion train.

Port of Seattle has not discussed nor has any agreement with Snohomish County for trails on the Snohomish County portion of their purchase. Peter Kamp said "No one has approached us with and money for trails".

A ridership study is currently underway and is being funded by Sound Transit, PSRC and the State of Washington. Commuter rail is NOT a requirement included in the RFP put out by BNSF, Freight first and Excursion second. BNSF will choose the TPO and then send to the STB for approval, the Port of Seattle will be included in the process. Kamp said "To say that Snohomish County has limited input on the choice of the third party operator would be charitable". The TPO will not have any obligations beyond what is already in place. The most likely scenario for commuter rail will be collaboration between the State, Port and Sound Transit.

King County purchasing the easement is in the Port's best interest because the liability would be placed on them for the trails portion. Trails are not being built any time soon. Merit said "Saying it may take 5 years before you will be able to bike from Woodinville to Bellevue would be optimistic at best".

Questions on the status of the Snohomish River bridge arose during the meeting, George Schwartz said he has inspected the bridge and it is in poor condition. Merit confirmed that it will take a sizable amount of money to fix the bridge to carry a locomotive. The bridge belongs to the Port.

Merit reiterated that the Port of Seattle wants to work with Snohomish County. Kamp was open to that invitation and will take that back to the Executive. Councilwoman Clemens said "We need to do public outreach and form partnerships..".

After the meeting a conversation with Merit and Kamp found them to be very optimistic in the process and very open to input from residents.  

NOTE: Colleen Hill was named chair person for Rails and Trails committee.

Snohomish Times Staff Reporter

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