FOUR years after the sale of the 42-mile Eastside rail corridor by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to the Port of Seattle, it is worth noting steady work in progress.
The 2014 Washington Legislature can complement the recent decision by the Snohomish County Council to buy an 11-mile section of the corridor from the Port.
The County Council is using Conservation Futures property tax funds to pay $5 million for the rail section between the cities of Snohomish and Woodinville.
Eastside communities and King County have also purchased pieces of the rail corridor for local needs and a longer term vision of commuter service.
In December 2009, the final price between BNSF and the Port was $81 million, substantially below early estimates beyond $104 million.
The excitement surrounding this latest transaction is about the potential to add a recreational trail and a new tourist amenity, and boost the rail potential for freight.
Hikers and cyclists would get a link into the Centennial Trail, from Skagit County to Pierce County.
The other opportunities include enhanced freight access between Snohomish and Woodinville, and to open up other property to industrial development.
The state Legislature can invest funds from freight rail-improvement programs to help refurbish ties, ballast, switches and bridges.
One creative use being explored is a “Bounty of Washington: Tasting Train,” envisioned as a rolling buffet between rail cars featuring local organic foods, wines and craft brews.
Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Center, has advocated for Eastside rail improvements and opportunities for years. He has high praise for the energy and efforts of Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, his executive director Peter Camp, county parks director Tom Teigen, and the work of the council.
Lawmakers convening in Olympia can help Snohomish County complete an excellent plan.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).