City Closes Deal With BNSF, Including (Some) Prairie Line Trail Land

Negotiations lasting seven years between the City of Tacoma and Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad have finally reached a resolution.

Prairie Line Trail

Under the terms of the deal, BNSF donates property along the length of the trail to the City. The property donated will be 80 feet wide between South 23rd and 25th, and the rest of the donation will be significantly narrower, at 20 feet wide north of UWT to South 15th, and south of the campus to south 23rd.

BNSF will also give up its right-of-way crossing on A, East 22nd, and Dock streets, and will authorize the expansion of the overpass at South 15th Streets that currently connects Dock Street and the Foss Waterfront to the downtown core. At some point in the future, the parties plan to locate another pedestrian overpass somewhere between A and East D streets.

The City was hoping to obtain the full width of the BNSF property for the length of the trail, but it looks like that isn't happening, at least at this point. The press release from the City doesn't completely shut the door on the idea, however, mentioning that BNSF will consider trading additional "remnant properties" in the area around South 17th, and north across Pacific Avenue, along Hood Street past the Tacoma Art Museum), to the City to be used for "streetscapes and other park-like amenities."

North Access Road

A second set of agreements between the City and BNSF would enable a future "North Access Road" to connect South Tacoma to 157 acres of developable property owned by BNSF. That connection would be over nearly two acres of City-owned land south of South 35th and east of Windom Avenue, next to TPU's Water Operations Center. The connection would open up the nearly 160 acres to development for large manufacturing and industrial uses, removing a barrier to development. BNSF would build the road within the next eight years, paying TPU $8,000 per year while the road is being built. The railroad would also either donate an almost six-acre piece of land for Tacoma Water's use, or would pay Tacoma Water almost $400,000 for the use of the land.

The City now owns the property to continue the Prairie Line Trail on either end of the UWT campus. Although the 20-foot width may limit the possibilties for at least the time-being, at least the City can now move forward on development of the trail, as UWT begins work this month on the UWT Station section of trail.

How long will it be until we see BNSF let go of those "remnant properties," if ever? Your guess is as good as ours.

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