Tacoma Urbanist

Feb. 20, 2008 at 12:23am

How About Bike and Walking *Rails to Trails* for Tacoma?

Other Washington cities like Bellingham have extensive Rails to Trails Programs.

Tacoma, not so much.  I don't know why.  Tacoma has rail lines everywhere and many of them are long since abandoned and in disuse. 

Riding in a painted bike lane on roadways always seemed dangerous:

From the website:

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a nonprofit organization working with communities to preserve unused rail corridors by transforming them into trails, enhancing the health of America's environment, economy, neighborhoods and people.

Our Mission

The mission of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.


There's some great places in Tacoma for converting abandoned railroad tracks to bike trails.  The ones by the Foss Waterway look like they have alot of potential.  The rail lines are obviously inoperable.  What is keeping us from converting them to a trail for a variety of uses?

Has someone (like Jamie) explored the Rails to Trails options?

Here's the remaining railroad track by the Foss Waterway in Tacoma.  The sidewalk goes over the RR track completely.  Couldn't this be a bike trail?




I don't see how this track can be used again with the cement on it.



Here's the track looking up to the Tacoma Art Museum.



Here's the abandoned track which runs through UWT.  Is it possible students could use part of this unused space for a bike/pedestrian path?







comments [10]  |  posted under bike trails, tacoma, washington

Comments

by andrew.austin on 2/20/2008 @ 3:04am
It would be cool if they could put a bike trail along side the rail that goes up center street through South Tacoma. Right now it is very difficult to bike anywhere overthere. You basically have to go up Yakima and then cut over.

by Nick K. on 2/20/2008 @ 9:45am
Rails-To-Trails programs are great, as long as we all remember the initial philosophy behind the program.

"Railbanking (as defined by the National Trails System Act , 16 USC 1247 (d)) is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until some railroad might need the corridor again for rail service."

There wouldn't be much of a trail, except maybe to connect UTW with the waterway somehow. As it is, the old Prairie Line dead ends into the west side of Half Moon Yard, which BNSF regularly uses to stage unit grain trains for the grain facility. You would have to divert the trail over the "15'th street" overpass to connect to the waterfront. The other side would end at 25'th street where the eventual re-connection of the Prairie Line will double track passenger traffic through South Tacoma. As it is, the line is still regularly used up to the Nalley Food facility in the "Nalley" Valley.

I wouldn't mind preserving this section as some type of bike and-or pedestrian path, for the historic importance it has to Tacoma. These rails are the original 1873 Northern Pacific tracks ( named the "Prairie Line") that initiated the rapid development of "New Tacoma," or what is now, obviously, downtown Tacoma. Symbolically, they represent the terminus of the second, and last, transcontinental U.S. land-grant railroad decreed by Mr. Abraham Lincoln. They saw 130 years of service until their sacrifice for the Link in 2003.

by Erik on 2/20/2008 @ 9:56am
I wouldn't mind preserving this section as some type of bike and-or pedestrian path, for the historic importance it has to Tacoma.

Yep.

As one of the videos point out, the grade of RR tracks is great for biking.

Tacoma is criss crossed w/RR tracks. Alot of potential.

by thriceallamerican on 2/20/2008 @ 9:56am
Whoa, I got called out...better say something!

I think Rails-to-Trails is definitely one piece of the puzzle for making Tacoma and Pierce County more walkable and bikeable. I also think it is definitely on the radar of regional planners who are working on this project. (See, for example, the Foothills Trail which is built in the railroad right-of-way in Sumner, Orting, etc., and will hopefully eventually extend all the way to Mount Rainier National Park. Also, the southern end of the Interurban Trail, another rails-to-trails venture, extends into Pierce County from the north...)

Luckily, we have a local organization already working to enhance the trail system in Pierce County in the form of the ForeverGreen Council. Their mission is to create an extensive system of multi-use trails (bicycle, pedestrian, equestrian, etc.) throughout the county. There are already pieces in place: Cushman Trail in Gig Harbor, Scott Pierson in Tacoma, Foothills in Sumner/Orting/Buckley, Riverwalk(?) in Puyallup, the trails at Ladenburg Links, etc. And there are plans for the Water Ditch Trail (essentially parallel to South Tacoma Way) as well as various connections between the existing trails that would make it possible to bike from Tacoma to the mountain, or from Gig Harbor to the trails of King County, etc.

I think that rails-to-trails could be of excellent use in connecting downtown Tacoma to the Scott Pierson and Water Ditch trails via the Prairie Line segment through the UWT campus.

by Erik on 2/20/2008 @ 11:36am
I think that rails-to-trails could be of excellent use in connecting downtown Tacoma to the Scott Pierson and Water Ditch trails via the Prairie Line segment through the UWT campus.

Thanks for weighing in Jamie. The UWT to the waterfront looks so perfect for coversion. I wonder what would need to be done.

by Catherine on 2/20/2008 @ 1:22pm
You know I believe I saw a film clip on this once featuring Pierce County Councilman Calvin Goings and Parks Commissioner Victoria Woodard, you might give them a call to see if they have knowledge/news.

by Twisty on 2/20/2008 @ 5:40pm
Tacoma has rail lines everywhere? Not really.

Outside of the port area, there are exactly three rail corridors through Tacoma. One is the active main line that hugs the shoreline. Then there is the Tacoma Rail line to Fredrickson that crosses Tacoma's east side, and the BNSF (soon-to-be Sounder) line that runs up Nalley Valley.

The latter was once joined to the segment in your photos (which was at one time the Northern Pacific main line leaving Tacoma southbound, before the tunnel was build under Pt. Defiance). That short section of track -- from UWT down to Half Moon Yard -- was abandoned when LINK's tracks were built across it (Sound Transit wanted to set up a crossing arrangement; BNSF declined).

So, ironically, rather that having "rail lines every where"... it would be more correct to say that you had captured most of the right-of-way that is available in Tacoma in one frame.

by Erik on 2/20/2008 @ 5:56pm
Tacoma has rail lines everywhere? Not really.

Yes. Really. The city of Tacoma was one large rail yard.


by Nick K. on 2/20/2008 @ 9:38pm
Well, it used to. Unfortunately, the city would much rather see them all go away, which is a shame. Of course, I'm from Chicago, which really does have rail lines everywhere.

What Tacoma doesn't have is many abandoned rail corridors. The short section that's the topic of this discussion is the only one I can think of that's conducive to a rail-path conversion right now.

I love rail-to-trail conversions for unused and abandoned corridors, for the preservation of the corridor itself, the recreational and productive use of, and the preservation of history. I've been personally involved, for some time, with the preservation and conversion/improvement of the old Milwaukee Road mainline between Renton and Miles City, (eastern) Montana, abandoned in 1980. I wish the state could allocate more resources to improving its (wholly owned) section of the line; such as opening up the Renslow Trestle over I-90 and the Columbia River bridge at Beverly. I wish there was a complete 1,200+ miles of improved trail. What I am not in favor of is this need to parallel bike paths down operating rail lines, such as the old Tacoma Eastern to Ashford!

One of my major lifelong hobbies is rail photography. Such dual rail/bike path projects have a tendency to negatively affect my recreation. The natural working landscape of the rail line is altered. For safety concerns, fences are usually put up. The introduction of bike and foot traffic leave the rail operators and private land owners less willing to allow rail photographers to explore right-of-ways for photo opportunities. Eventually, such projects create demand for abandonment, removal of rails, and complete bike path conversion if a rail line becomes underutilized; a situation which might have otherwise left the line intact and mothballed until future traffic is generated, such as the case with BNSF's Stampede Pass.

In a related bit of Tacoma news, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Society is having its annual July convention at the Hotel Murano this year (the third time in Tacoma since 1970)!

by Erik on 2/20/2008 @ 10:24pm
What Tacoma doesn't have is many abandoned rail corridors. The short section that's the topic of this discussion is the only one I can think of that's conducive to a rail-path conversion right now.

Well. There's start. Its a great path too as it goes from Pacific toward the water by some great buildings.

I wonder if there are any bikers in Tacoma motivated enough on the issue.