$465K boost for historic Prairie Line Trail

The historic Prairie Line Trail that cuts through the University of Washington Tacoma campus downtown could receive a nearly half-million-dollar funding boost beginning this month. On April 12, Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would allow the City to accept a $465,000 transportation enhancement grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation to pay for the preliminary engineering of a one-mile section of the trail and planning for the trail’s South 21st Street crossing.

According to supporting documents prepared by City of Tacoma urban planner Elliott Barnett, accepting the money means Tacoma must build the $5.835 million trail within the next 20 years. “Staff fully anticipates securing the additional construction funds through future grants,” writes Grant. “Preliminary engineering work completed through this grant will make Tacoma highly competitive for future funding to complete construction of the trail.”

The Prairie Line Trail stretches from Dock Street to South 25th Street. The City has described the trail as the “spine of Tacoma’s pedestrian and bicycle network” that will eventually intersect with the Water Ditch Trail. It was formerly a rail corridor that served Burlington Northern-Santa Fe.

Tacoma City Council will vote on the resolution during its Tues., April 12 meeting at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 747 Market Street. For a copy of the preliminary agenda, visit http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/CityCouncil/Pendings/2011/Pd20110412.pdf .

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Tacoma seeks artists for Prairie Line Trail (02/01/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1917594&more=0

City of Tacoma seeks artists to design bike racks for Prairie Line Trail (01/12/11) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1906639&more=0

Prairie Line Trail design workshop Aug. 9 (08/05/10) — http://www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/list.cgi?paper=88&cat=23&id=1817487&more=0

City, railroad deal could open downtown Prairie Line trail (06/19/08)

By Todd Matthews, Editor

A former railroad line that runs through the University of Washington Tacoma campus and down to Tacoma’s waterfront could be converted into a trail for bikes and pedestrians traveling between South Tacoma and the city’s central business district, according to a development deal presently being considered by the City of Tacoma and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway.

The plan, however, is contingent upon two variables.

First, a $120-million deal underway between BNSF and ProLogis, a Denver-based company that wants to purchase a 157-acre parcel from the railroad company in order to build its 1.9-million-square-foot distribution center. The deal would also require some cooperation from the city, which owns land in an area that would serve as the distribution center’s north access.

Second, BNSF has said it will donate a 20-foot easement of the former Prairie Line, which runs between South 27th and South 15th Street, and crosses Pacific Avenue downtown, if the city will agree to permanently close a portion of A Street, near South 22nd and Dock Streets, in order to create a five-mile continuous rail cargo link between the Port of Tacoma, downtown, and Ruston.

For years, the city has asked BNSF to donate the former railroad line in order to create a connection to the Water Ditch Trail and Scott Pierson Trail, but has not been successful. On Tuesday, a BNSF spokesperson said the railroad company hoped to reach an agreement with the City and ProLogis soon.

“We want to make sure we complete this transaction before we lose traction and it fades away,” said BNSF spokesperson James A. Ball during Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is huge, getting the property donated,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Connie Ladenburg, who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting. “I’ll venture to guess this does not happen often.”

Still, several councilmembers were concerned about the impact of permanently closing A Street.

But City of Tacoma Economic Development Director Ryan Petty noted that Sound Transit already plans to permanently close A Street near 25th Street in order to make way for a future connection to South Tacoma. “It will not be the one-shot thoroughfare it has been in the past,” said Petty. He also added that public safety along A Street, near South 22nd and Dock Streets, has been a concern for more than a decade, as pedestrians and cars navigate heavy freight traffic.

A public meeting was held during Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting.

Foss Waterway Association president Ted Johnson told councilmembers he was concerned closing A Street would make it more difficult for visitors to access the downtown waterfront.

Tacoma/Pierce County Chamber of Commerce president David W. Graybill was also concerned about the A Street closure, but added that he supported the economic benefit of the ProLogis development plan.

University of Washington Tacoma spokesperson Mike Wark told councilmembers the university supported opening the Prairie Line to bicyclists and pedestrians. “We support the project as an amenity for our students and the community,” said Wark.