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Sound Transit buys 1.1 miles of former BNSF track for East Link light rail

Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle today announced they have finalized Sound Transit’s purchase of 1.1 miles of former BNSF track in Bellevue for construction of East Link light rail, as well as easements for future access to 37 miles of the Eastside rail corridor.

The purchase supports Sound Transit's work to start construction of East Link light rail. The 37-mile easement was also part of the purchase package offered by the Port of Seattle. The easement provides the ability to consider future voter-approved rail transit investments between Woodinville and Renton. Sound Transit would need to build new tracks to support the safety features and operating speeds needed for passenger rail service.

The Sound Transit Board voted to approve the purchase in 2011 following a 2009 non-binding memorandum of understanding that was negotiated between the Port of Seattle, Sound Transit and other parties.

In addition to the 37-mile easement, Sound Transit also received rights to access the portion of the rail corridor located within Redmond's city limits, allowing for future construction of a light rail extension between the city’s Overlake and downtown areas. Last year Sound Transit identified a route for building the extension at such time funding becomes available.

“This transaction gets the residents of Redmond, Bellevue and the entire Eastside closer to enjoying congestion-free transportation on fast and efficient light rail trains,” said Sound Transit Board Member and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. “Longer term, we’re also thrilled that this purchase supports the priority of extending Link all the way to Downtown Redmond.”

The port worked for several years to acquire the corridor to place it in public ownership. Without the port’s involvement to secure the corridor, it could have been sold piecemeal to private owners and lost to public use forever.

Sound Transit’s transaction and plans for constructing East Link comply with requirements of the national rail banking program to maintain the ability and sufficient space for the potential resumption freight rail operations on the corridor.

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