Construction on the Prairie Line Trail, a planned linear park through campus, has been delayed due to financial obstacles, and is tentatively set to open next fall.
UWT bought the rights from the City of Tacoma to the section of the Prairie Line Railroad that runs from 17th to 21st streets, and plans to renovate the railroad tracks to include rain gardens for stormwater management, seating areas, and new landscaping along a pedestrian and bicycling trail. The other segments of the trail will connect UWT with the Thea Foss Waterway, the Brewery District and the Museum District, and is eventually slated to expand to Point Defiance Park and the proposed 6.5 mile Water Ditch Trail from downtown to South Tacoma.
The completion of the parts of the trail outside of campus rely on the City of Tacoma and agreements with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the company that owns the Prairie Line Railroad. These agreements regarding the railroad’s future have yet to be officially finalized, but should be within the next few weeks, according to Martha Anderson, Tacoma’s assistant economic development director. Tacoma recently applied for a $1.92 million grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council to fund construction on the pedestrian trail from the Children’s Museum to the Tacoma Art Museum. Results of the grant recipients will be made known by December.
As for UWT’s section, the construction bids on the project that were returned were all substantially more than the $2.4 million budgeted, according to Director of External Relations Mike Wark. The project will be reviewed for ways to reduce its cost, and sent out for another round of bids in early 2014. Originally set to be completed by spring, it is now hoped that construction will begin in summer and the trail will tentatively be open for visitors by fall 2014.
Work was done over the summer to remove topsoil along the trail that was affected by the 130 years that the railroad was active.
In a campus email explaining the difficulties present in the Prairie Line Trail, Wark explained that it will be “a major landscaping installation project with a variety of walkways and paths,” as well as “an innovative rain garden-based structural component” that cleans stormwater flowing down from the 21st Street drainage basin before it continues to the Foss Waterway.”
“We still plan to deliver what we promised,” Wark told the Tacoma News Tribune about the delay in construction.