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Thursday, April 26, 2007

From Boeing Field to Pimped Out Escalades

posted by on April 26 at 11:11 AM

There’s a plan afoot for King County and the Port of Seattle to swap the King County airport (Boeing Field) for the “Rails-to-trails” corridor on the east side. The Port would buy Boeing Field from KC and the County would use the money to buy the 40-mile inactive railway corridor and transform it into biking and hiking trails.

However, KC Council Member Larry Phillips doesn’t like the deal because he wants to retain County control over Boeing field so he can continue to push for noise mitigation.

Fighting to keep hold of the airport, Phillips makes an unrelated, although compelling argument. The PI reports:

Phillips speaks of the “blue-collar” airport that pays for itself, an economic asset for the county since it opened in 1928.

Compelling until you read stuff like this from personal blogs of people who date Vulcan employees:

Wednesday, October 20, 2004 I completely forgot to mention what I did this past weekend, which was so incredibly fun. So..last Friday, Ajay (who works at Vulcan) gives me a call and says “Whatcha doin’ tomorrow night? Cuz’ I just got invited to fly down on Paul’s plane to check out the Trailblazers game—wanna come?” Hell yes. I can’t believe I even hesitated (I had to cancel some plans). On Saturday, we drove over to Boeing Airfield to the Vulcan Flight Operations hangar and boarded Paul’s private 747. This was my first time on a private plane and it was just an incredible experience. It’s exactly like what you see on TV—there was a bed, shower and loungy couches everywhere…so incredibly comfortable. Within 25 minutes, we were in Portland and getting whisked off to the Rose Garden Stadium. We entered through this back entrance where we got to see some of the player’s cars parked (and they were all pimped out—Escalades, Rolls Royce, etc…chrome wheels, everything). We headed up to the Owner’s Suite and got some food and wine and then got seated for the game. Ajay and I scored by having COURTSIDE tickets. We were literally sitting right behind the Trailblazer girls the entire time. So sweet. What an amazing experience it was. The Trailblazers won (yay!) and we headed back to the plane right afterwards. All in all, I flew to Portland, watched a game and flew back in about 5 hours. Incredible. I’m working for the wrong company. This was a nice perk.

Indeed, while Boeing Field does cater to the working class shipping industry, it’s also a bit of a yacht club, with folks like Allen, the Nordstroms, and charter flight companies docking there too.

RSS icon Comments


No stops for cripples! Cool!

Posted by Erica | April 26, 2007 11:21 AM

I might deign to use one of those. How often do they run to the Seattle Center?

Posted by Dan | April 26, 2007 11:25 AM

Not that it matters, but I thought Paul Allen's plane was a 757. It seems that a 747 flying between Seattle and Portland would be silly.
Maybe he owns several planes.....

Posted by Hey | April 26, 2007 11:27 AM

But presumably they're also paying a hefty sum for access privileges, hanger space, etc., etc., all of goes into the county coffers, and thus contributes to making Boeing Field a "profitable" asset.

Posted by COMTE | April 26, 2007 11:29 AM

it's barely profitable, and has been in the red for much of the past ten years (the chart is at the bottom of the page):

They should destroy it and turn it into condos.

haha just kidding. They should definitely let southwest fly out of it though. That would be sweet.

Posted by Andrew | April 26, 2007 11:32 AM

Of course, you would expect me to post my usual item here about how unwise it is for the eastside rail line to be converted to a trail, and I'd hate to disappoint you.

Once a railbed goes to trails, especially in a high value residential area like the eastside, it never comes back to its original use.

We need that rail line not only because it could serve as a future commuter line, but also because, in the highly likely event that something happens to put the 100 year old king street tunnel under downtown Seattle out of commission for a time, we are screwed from a freight mobility standpoint.

The only reason - the ONLY reason - BNSF is abandoning this line is because no one wants to pay for a new bridge over I-90 when they widen it, so they are just going to sever it.

Now, onto Boeing field. I don't know from millionaires, but I do know this: If I were a Georgetown resident, I would be very nervous about this plan. Right now, one of the few things keeping Boeing Field from being expanded to the north is the antique steam plant, and the reluctance of the county to get people riled up. The Port is a lot less concerned about such niceties.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | April 26, 2007 11:32 AM

So to recap:

...what I did this past weekend...Ajay ...says ...wanna come? Hell yes...there was a bed, shower and...couches everywhere...entered through...back entrance...pimped out...Ajay and I scored...behind the Trailblazer girls...So sweet....nice perk.

Posted by elswinger | April 26, 2007 11:33 AM

I agree with Catalina. This is a terrible deal on both ends. We need that rail line, and we need the airport. It's all well and good to make fun of a rich guy with a big plane, but if you have any idea what really goes on at Boeing Field, this is a tiny part of it.

Maybe Josh would like to shut the container port down too? After all, there are some big yachts up at Shilshole.

Posted by Fnarf | April 26, 2007 11:49 AM

Telling SWA to take a hike was a huge mistake -- they were offering a friggin' gift of a deal to the county...

Posted by GoodGrief | April 26, 2007 11:57 AM

If the players can afford a pimped out Escalade Rolls Royce, they certainly can contribute a million or two to paying for a Renton Arena. =)

Posted by Blah | April 26, 2007 11:59 AM

Josh may also want to consider learning the difference between "their" and "there" if he wants anyone to take him seriously...

Posted by GoodGrief | April 26, 2007 12:00 PM

Since Larry Phillips is my Councilman, I'm glad he's doing this.

Not that I'm against the rails to trails, it's just not a good deal for us taxpayers.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 26, 2007 12:12 PM

A trail that will cost a minimal amount of maintenance each year or an airport needing sizable investments that constantly loses money. Seems like an easy choice to me.

By the way Councilmember Patterson is proposing including a study of rail use in the upcoming Roads and Transits plan.

Posted by Giffy | April 26, 2007 12:17 PM

Throw my hat in with Catalina and Fnarf. The people at "Bridal Trails" and other places like that don't need more suburbanite trails. They need transit so they can leave the Merc in the garage from time to time.

A deal should be negotiated with the RR in any case. But this is not the right deal. Catalina is right... the Port isn't so nice. Maybe it will be nicer once Pat Davis is run off and Mic takes her to fancy dinners with the extra money he's gotten.

Posted by Dave Coffman | April 26, 2007 12:18 PM

I'm still dubious that the BNSF line makes sense as a transit corridor. It really doesn't serve the population centers on the Eastside. The line was built for freight, not passenger travel.

It makes sense to retain the current rails as a freight backup, but that can be done while adding bike lanes. Light rail extensions from the planned ST2 line across I-90 to Redmond should be planned separately.

Posted by Cascadian | April 26, 2007 12:36 PM

News Flash to rail supporters (like myself): The rail corridor is FOR SALE. If King County doesn't buy it, Burlington Northern has stated their intent to rip out the bed, salvage the rail, and sell off the easements piece by piece over time. And then not only is the rail gone forever, so is the whole corridor - 33 miles of property scattered to the wind. This deal is the only thing going to preserve the corridor, keep it in one piece and put it into public hands for future use.

Posted by Lionel Hutz | April 26, 2007 12:39 PM

The choices:

1) King County sells Boeing field, purchases the BNSF rail line, and converts it to public use bike trails.

2) BNSF sells off the rail line to developers.

Come one people, this one is easy!

Posted by Sean | April 26, 2007 12:48 PM

I'd also like to add that anyone who thinks that the plush jets of the superrich won't get a sweeter deal from the Port than they do now from the County hasn't been paying much attention to the Port in recent decades. It's also extremely likely that the Port would find a way to turn the sometimes-profitable, sometimes-not airport into a never-anywhere-near-profitable boondoggle, the same way they have every other port operation. This is the organization that thinks we need to build a completely new cruise ship terminal from scratch every three years.

Posted by fnarf | April 26, 2007 12:49 PM

Southwest flying out of Boing field would be so sweet. Get on it Southwest!

Posted by Dougsf | April 26, 2007 12:49 PM

Sorry, "Boeing" field.

Posted by Dougsf | April 26, 2007 12:52 PM
with folks like Allen, the Nordstroms, and charter flight companies docking there too.

Yeah, I've gott ask what the fuck difference this makes. I mean, if you'd framed it in some way that indicated Paul Allen's use of the field is costing us money, that would be one thing. But you seem to basically just be saying, "We should get rid of the field because rich people use it. Class war!" Which is cute in a sort of retarded college freshman activist kind of way, but but doesn't really constitute an argument. Or, you know, journalism. But this is slog, so you're off the hook for that second part.

I say the county should buy the eastside rail anyway. It's only a matter of time before we need mass transit to service the east side (some might argue we're past that point already). It'll be cheaper to buy the land now than to try and elbow those arrogant eastside pricks out of the way later on.

Anyone who knows anything about Seattle's history wants to go back in time and strangle the voters who failed to back the Bogue plan. This is yet another one of those opportunities (like Bogue's mass transit plan) that won't get any less necessary and will only get more expensive if we pass on it now.

Posted by Judah | April 26, 2007 12:59 PM

No. This is a stupid idea. If we allow Southwest to fly out of Boeing Field, then every other commercial airline that currently flies out of SeaTac will justifiably be screaming mad, and will want a similar sweetheart deal to fly out of Boeing Field too. The county would spend the next decade in court defending themselves against lawsuits by any airline that can't get the same deal. Southwest would have a grossly unfair advantage over any airline still stuck at SeaTac, and that would drive the docking fees at SeaTac down.

Much as I like Ron Sims, this was a bad idea on a lot of levels.

Posted by SDA in SEA | April 26, 2007 1:19 PM

OK, so maybe a passenger carrier out of Boeing field isn't realistic, but it's a decent fantasy. Basically, I want it to be as wasy on ME as possible to get to-and-fro Seattle, and Southwest is my ride.

The rest of the carriers can go screw themselves. I'm talking to you, to, Jet Blue.

If only Southwest was doable to NYC, sigh.

Sorry for the thread hijack.

Posted by Dougsf | April 26, 2007 1:33 PM

Yup SDA its impossible to have multiple airports in one city. No way you could have the regular carries mostly fly out of one and the discounts another. that doesn't happen anywhere at all.

Posted by Giffy | April 26, 2007 2:05 PM

SDA, how is it a "sweetheart" deal if they offer to build the airport themselves?

How about this? We auction off the right to operate out of Boeing Field. That way, it's fair to all the airlines.

What frustrates me about all this is that one day, SeaTac will be at its capacity. Then, our "leaders" will ask us for BILLIONS to build an airport somewhere, plus decades and decades of "process." Then, we'll recall the opportunity we had to get an airport FOR FREE and the NIMBYism that kept it from happening.

I say this as a Beacon Hill resident who gets plenty of jet noise already, thank you.

Posted by MHD | April 26, 2007 2:15 PM


Go re-read the press coverage at the time - SDA is absolutely right that opening up Boeing Field to SW would have raised a ton of contractural issues with existing carriers at Sea Tac (which, in turn, would likely have led to the Port of Seattle managing to actually lose money on that facility).

Also, no one seems to remember the fact that SW Airlines wanted tens of millions of tax dollars for road improvements as part of their deal, and that Ron Sims apparently was ready to play ball with them.

And, as one KC Councilmember pointed out, bringing passenger service would likely short-circuit long-term discussions about establishing another regional airport (with Paine Field and McCord being the most likely candidates). On the latter point, the 3rd Runway boondoggle was approved with the specific caveat that the search for a new regional airport must go forward.

So how do you think they're doing on that?

Posted by Mr. X | April 26, 2007 2:16 PM

Everett and Tacoma are too far to go for an Airport. An airport in the City would be so much better, and the light rail is already going to go by there anyway.

Posted by Transit Man | April 26, 2007 2:58 PM

Everett and Tacoma are too far to go for an Airport. An airport in the City would be so much better, and the light rail is already going to go by there anyway.

Posted by Transit Man | April 26, 2007 2:59 PM

Moses Lake International - connected to King St. Station by Mag Lev Supertrain!

Gov'ner Gregoire - make it happen!

Posted by maxsolomon | April 26, 2007 3:10 PM

Yo Transit Man,

This may come as a surprise to you - but there is an entire region out there that isn't Seattle. You might go have a look at it sometime.

Posted by Mr. X | April 26, 2007 3:12 PM

What concerns me is that Pat "executive session" Davis and her cronies would be running Boeing Field. Ron Sims was willing to play ball with SWA, but out of a sense of accountability to the public, eventually bagged the idea. No such accountability with the port.

Posted by Paul Allen's pilot | April 26, 2007 3:23 PM

If Southwest had been allowed to build their terminal at KCIA, the only airline that would have possibly followed along would have been Alaska (nobody else is big enough in SEA to want to build a whole new building at Boeing) and they have a hub and spoke operation at SeaTac, so their threat to move any significant number of flights was just a bunch of BS to try and scare the Council, which worked.

If anything, the move of SWA might have forced the Port to do something about the fees at SeaTac, which was the issue that got SWA looking at Boeing in the first place. The fees at SeaTac are well documented as some of the highest in the nation and it causes us to be underserved (and overpriced) here. That nice new Air France flight to Paris that is starting soon? The Port had to bribe them (which means you and I are ultimately bribing them) with incentives and discounts to get them to start it up...

Posted by GoodGrief | April 26, 2007 3:45 PM

Mr. X, Yeah but Tacoma is served well by Seatac and Everett is far, far away from the region's three biggest population centers. King county has more than three times the population of Snohomish

Posted by Transit Man | April 26, 2007 3:50 PM

Also, Boeing Field is too close to Sea-Tac (being right under the approach path) for the two airports to be operated as full-sized commercial airports.

There are many, many reasons why SEA was selected as and has been built out as the region's commercial airport over the past 50 years.

Now... ST2, if it passes, is going to extend light rail as far south as Tacoma and as far north as Lynnwood. And, Sounder service is going to be greatly increased on the existing line as far south as Lakewood; and, Mukilteo is getting its own stop.

_If_ (big if) Paine Field or McChord AFB were to become secondary commercial airports for the region, over what would be vehement, lying down in front of the bulldozers opposition from nearby communities (possibly less so at McChord, but the USAF would have to agree, and they have bombers), transit would be relatively nearby.

However, having all carriers together at SEA, promotes both economies of scale in terms of use of public funds (for the airport itself as well as the new light rail), and competition between carriers (= lower fares).

Posted by asdf | April 26, 2007 3:55 PM

Everett, Lynnwood, Mukilteo, Snohomish, Monroe, Lake Stevens, Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood, Burlington...these are no longer sleepy little towns, they are the new fast-growing population centers of the Puget Sound, and would be well-served by something like Paine Field in the north.

Posted by laterite | April 26, 2007 5:25 PM

I could be wrong about this, but can't the county or state just tell BNSF that they can't sell the rail line?

I think there is a case to be made for some sort of commuter rail from the southend up to Bellevue (with connections to Seattle and Kirkland/Redmond) but my main concern is the vulnerability of the king street tunnel under downtown Seattle.

No one remembers this, but right around the time of 9/11, there was a horrendous accident in a similar tunnel under downtown Baltimore that caused a huge fire, and shut it down for months. Can you imagine what would happen if this happened in Seattle? The impact on I-5 through downtown Seattle if all of those containers and airplane chassis suddenly had to be moved to trucks? Let alone the impact on Sounder and Amtrak if they can't get north of downtown (since their coach yards are located south of the stadium)

The SFD has had its qualms about this tunnel for quite some time, just from the standpoint of having to fight a fire in there, particularly if there are passengers involved.

Putting all your hopes on a 100 year old tunnel in a region that is geographically limited is stupid. But that's the way corporations act. Someone who has the region's best interest at heart needs to step in.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | April 26, 2007 5:55 PM

Unless you have your own fleet of planes and helicopters, why would you give a shit who runs Boeing field?

Posted by Sean | April 26, 2007 6:56 PM

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