Tacoma, BNSF reach agreements on Prairie Line Trail, North Access Road projects

The City of Tacoma and BNSF Railway officials announced Monday they have reached right-of-way agreements on two transportation corridors in Tacoma.

The first set of agreements involves the Prairie Line railroad right-of-way, which traverses downtown Tacoma between approximately South 15th and South 26th streets. The City and the University of Washington Tacoma envision a Prairie Line Trail that serves as a non-motorized path connecting Dock Street and Thea Foss Waterway with the University of Washington Tacoma and downtown amenities. There will also be a future opportunity to connect to the Water Ditch Trail along South Tacoma Way.

Under the Prairie Line agreement, BNSF will donate to the City a strip of property — generally 20 feet wide — between South 15th Street and South 26th Street. There will be a right of way 80 feet wide between South 23rd Street and South 25th Street and at street intersections. The City will in the future permanently close the crossing of BNSF’s right of way on A Street, East 22nd Street and Dock Street, while BNSF authorizes the expansion of an existing bridge structure at South 15th Street and the construction of a future pedestrian overpass in a mutually agreed upon location between A Street and East D Street.

BNSF will also explore potential future exchanges of its remnant properties for City streetscapes and other park-like amenities in the vicinity of South 17th Street, Hood Street, and Pacific Avenue. BNSF has obtained final approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to cease rail operations, and abandon and convey the Prairie Line property.

“We are really excited about this next step in the Prairie Line Trail,” said University of Washington Tacoma Finance and Administration Vice Chancellor Harlan Patterson. “With the university and the City both moving forward on developing the trail, the project will quickly have a transformative impact downtown.”

The second set of agreements involves the future North Access Road, which will connect South Tacoma over 1.83 acres of City-owned land located south of South 35th Street and east of Windom Avenue abutting Tacoma Public Utilities’ Water Operations Center to approximately 157 acres of developable property that BNSF owns.

Under the agreement, BNSF will build the North Access Road within eight years (plus one additional year if proper notice is provided to the City) and donate approximately 5.94 acres of land to the City for Tacoma Water’s use once the road is built. A letter of understanding between General Government and Tacoma Public Utilities at the City indicates that Tacoma Water would receive $398,575 from the City’s Public Works Department as compensation for use of the strip of property where the road is built should BNSF not donate the 5.94 acres of land to the City. Tacoma Public Utilities would also receive an amount equal to $8,000 per year (less revenues received) from General Government while the road is being built.

“The North Access Road project is a win for both the City and BNSF,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Joe Lonergan. “The lack of access to this large manufacturing and industrial use center has limited interest and even halted plans for this property. This creative solution eliminates those obstacles to progress and should allow us to successfully attract quality employers to this South Tacoma location, providing more local job options for the people of Tacoma.”

“These agreements will enhance Tacoma’s economic growth and set the stage to complete one of the most unique public amenities in the region,” added Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Prairie Line Trail, click on the following links: