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Sound Transit files suit in local land dispute


Seattle-based Sound Transit July 29 filed suit against the city of Renton to condemn a strip of vacant land needed for track and signal upgrades, claiming a Renton official priced the land at $100 million, although it had been appraised at $30,000.

The dispute might be tied to an unrelated nearby project that Sound Transit suspended; the city has said funds budgeted for those projects should be spent solely within Renton city limits.

The city council now is withholding an easement for the track and signal work, which would clear the way for a third Sounder commuter train between Tacoma, Wash., and Seattle. Sound Transit officials evaluated alternatives to condemning the property, but the least expensive option would cost the region an additional $800,000.

"When there is an affordable option on the table for moving ahead with improvements in commuter rail service, I can’t in good conscience recommend that our board spend that kind of money, especially when Renton had already agreed with the easement price," said Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl in a prepared statement.

According to materials included with Sound Transit’s statement, an excerpt from a June 24 city council meeting includes a discussion between Renton’s mayor and council members, in which one member "suggests that the city ignore the appraised value of the property: ‘We have the property, you want it and the cost to you is $100 million.’ When told that Sound Transit is probably ‘prohibited by law to pay more than the appraised value’ for the easement, the city council member responded that, ‘I think we just increased the value of it.’"

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/31/2002