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King County v. City of Sammamish

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 8, 2017

KING COUNTY, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff King County's motion for a preliminary injunction (Dkt. No. 7). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a dispute over the placement of four stop signs at two intersections within a regional public trail. Trail construction disputes have been before this Court and the Western District of Washington several times. See, e.g., Friends of the E. Lake Sammamish Trail v. City of Sammamish, 361 F.Supp.2d 1260 (W.D. Wash. 2005) (Coughenour, J.); Hornish v. King Cty., 182 F.Supp.3d 1124 (W.D. Wash. 2016) (Pechman, J.).

         On October 22, 1898, the Northern Pacific Railway Company granted the property in dispute (the Corridor) to the Seattle and International Railway Company, a Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) predecessor. (Dkt. No. 9-1 at 8.) BNSF then conveyed its interest in the Corridor to The Land Conservancy. Hornish, 182 F.Supp.3d at 1226.[1]Ultimately, on September 18, 1998, King County acquired the Corridor along the eastern shore of Lake Sammamish. Id. at 1127. King County declared its intention to assume financial responsibility for the area as an interim trail sponsor, a process created by the National Trails System Act known as “railbanking.” Id.; see 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d). King County was granted all of The Land Conservancy's ownership interests in the Corridor. Hornish, 182 F.Supp.3d at 1226.

         Since acquisition, King County has been constructing a regional trail, the East Lake Sammamish Trail (ELST). Id. The ELST is a King County park that will provide a multi-use recreational trail and non-motorized transportation corridor to residents throughout the region. (Dkt. No. 15 at ¶ 3.) King County is currently attempting to construct a permanent trail along South Segment A. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Prior to this most recent dispute with Defendant City of Sammamish, South Segment A was expected to reopen in late July or early August of 2017. (Id. at ¶ 16.) In short, the parties disagree over the placement of stop signs at two intersections, 206thAvenue SE and SE 33rd Street, within South Segment A. King County believes the stop signs should face the oncoming cars, while the City believes the signs should face the pedestrians and bikers on the ELST. (See Dkt. No. 14 at ¶ 8.)

         On May 4, 2017, King County submitted Right of Way (ROW) permits to the City for its preferred intersection designs. (Dkt. No. 15-1 at 2.) King County included a disclaimer that the applications were not a waiver of its ownership and control over the Corridor and it did not “concede that any permit [was] required from the City to undertake work or modify traffic control.” (Id. at 5.) On May 23, 2017, King County withdrew its applications for the ROW permits. (Dkt. No. 15 at ¶ 13.) King County had determined that the City's property interest in the intersections was subject to the superior rights of the railroads, which King County had been conveyed. (See id.; Dkt. No. 9-1 at 15, 22.) On June 9, 2017, City Manager Lynn Howard sent a letter to King County and threatened to revoke the construction permits, which had already been granted for construction in South Segment A, if King County did not submit new ROW permits for the intersections at issue. (Dkt. No. 14-1 at 52.)

         On June 14, 2017, King County filed this action to resolve the issue. (Dkt. No. 1.) On June 16, 2017, the City issued a stop work order for all remaining construction on South Segment A. (Dkt. No. 15-1 at 7.) Later that same day, the City clarified that King County was only required to stop work at the intersections in dispute. (Dkt. No. 8-1 at 62.) King County estimates the remaining construction will take at least 30 to 45 days to complete after the stop work order is lifted. (Dkt. No. 15 at ¶ 16.) Moreover, the entirety of South Segment A cannot be reopened until the construction is completed at the two intersections. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

         King County now asks the Court to enter a preliminary injunction that would find (1) the stop work order is preempted by federal law; (2) the City has no authority to regulate the ELST's intersections; (3) the City is demanding intersections designs with unsafe placement; and (4) the City's preferred intersection design violates Washington law. (See Dkt. No. 7-1.)


         A. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a), a party seeking a preliminary injunction must show (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) a likelihood of suffering irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of hardship tips in her favor, and (4) that a preliminary injunction in is in the public interest. Winter v. Natural Resources Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); see also L.A. Unified Sch. Dist. v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 650 F.2d 1004, 1008 (9th Cir. 1981). Issuance of a preliminary injunction is “an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Garcia v. Google, Inc., 786 F.3d 733, 740 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Winter, 55 U.S. at 24).

         B. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         King County argues it is likely to succeed on the merits because the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983 (Trails Act) and the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) preempt the City's actions and the City has no authority to regulate the intersections. (Dkt. No. 7 at 11-16.) King County also argues the City's design is dangerous and contrary to engineering judgment, design standards, and Washington Law. (Id. at 16-20.) A showing of likelihood of success on the merits to a certain degree is not required; rather, this factor is considered along with the overall analysis of a balance of hardship. William Inglis & Sons Baking Co. v. ITT Continental Baking Co., Inc., 525 F.2d 86, 88 ...

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