July 12, 2014 in Idaho

CdA reaches deal to buy BNSF railroad right-of-way

Two-mile stretch along river will be used for trails, parks
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The city of Coeur d’Alene has reached a tentative agreement with BNSF Railway to purchase 2 miles of railroad right-of-way along the Spokane River for future trails and parks.

The railroad hasn’t used the line since Coeur d’Alene’s last waterfront sawmill shut down, but it took years of negotiations for BNSF and city officials to reach an agreement on price, said Mike Gridley, Coeur d’Alene city attorney.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, staff will ask the council for approval to finalize the $2.5 million purchase. The 20 acres is appraised at $4.3 million, said Gridley, who credited U.S. Sen. Jim Risch’s office and the Kootenai County commissioners for supporting the plan and helping persuade the railroad to accept the final price.

Urban renewal funding from the Lake City Development Corp. is expected to contribute to the purchase.

“We look forward to being a partner and bringing this deal to fruition,” Tony Berns, the Lake City Development Corp.’s executive director, said in a news release.

Acquiring the BNSF right-of-way fits into the city’s goal of creating a linear park that starts in downtown Coeur d’Alene and follows the Spokane River to the west.

The railroad right-of-way starts in the Riverstone Development and extends to Huetter Road. It varies in width from 60 to 200 feet.

Gridley said a trail and public access to the waterfront are the city’s two main goals in purchasing the right-of-way. Though the right-of-way isn’t directly on the river, the city would try to arrange trades with adjoining property owners for shoreline access, he said.

A fishing pier on the river is one of the suggestions that city officials have heard, Gridley said. There’s also interest in expanding Johnson Park in the Mill River development.

“We look forward to hearing from the public for their ideas for this property,” he said.

Public acquisition of the right-of-way should also help spur development of former industrial land along the river, said Keith Erickson, city of Coeur d’Alene spokesman. Having the railroad right-of-way bisecting those properties complicated efforts to develop housing and office parks along the river, he said.

The City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the community room of the Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front St.

If the council approves the proposed deal, Gridley said, the purchase would be finalized later this year or early next year.

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