Historic Water Ditch Trail: New Name, New Alternative

As work continues on Phase 2 of Tacoma's Historic Water Ditch Trail, a new design alternative has been proposed for Phase 3, and a new name is being dicussed for the whole trail.

A new Phase 3 alternative

At a recent open house, City staff shared four possible alignment alternatives for the Water Ditch Trail with attendees. Alternative 1 would add a raised concrete path wide enough for both pedestrians and cyclists to the south side of the street, giving cyclists a slight grade separation from vehicles. The design concept made room for the wider walkway with a retaining wall at some places, and would require the relocation of power poles. The roadway would remain the same for motor vehicle traffic. Alternatives 2, 3, and 4 would all add traditional separate sidewalks and bike lanes to both sides of the road, making room by eliminating either the turn lane, one westbound lane, or one eastbound lane, respectively.

The public had the opportunity to rank the four alternatives in order of preference either at the open house, or via an online survey. Feedback showed a solid preference for the first alternative. Unfortunately, additional information found the cost for relocating utility poles along the road (a necessary part of Alternative 1) to be in the neighborhood of $2 million, leading staff to review the alternatives, and look for new options. A fifth alternative was developed, in which a 14-foot wide raised bike and pedestrian path like what was in option 1 would go in on the north side of the road, rather than the south. This new option would eliminate one lane of traffic to accomodate the new path. This alternative would have the added benefit of providing a bit of a buffer between businesses and the roadway, making pedestrian access easier, without infringing on parking and vehicle access.

The public will get to have input on this new idea, along with the original four, at a public input session sometime in February. At that time more refined cost estimates available for all the options should be available as well.

A new name

"Historic Water Flume Line Trail" may not be the most inspirational name, but apparently there are quite a few people who find it more inspiring than a name that includes the word "ditch." The Water Ditch Trail has been the working name over the years this project has been in the works, but it hasn't been put on a sign yet.

The City and others want to retain the historic connection of the trail, which follows the path of the wooden structure - or flume - that carried water from Spanaway Lake into Tacoma a century ago. Back in the 1890s the original Tacoma Wheelmen turned the flume line into a pedestrian andbike trail.

As we move closer to completion of the trail (hopefully in the next couple years), the suggestion has been made to change the name to not only get rid of the word "ditch," replacing it with the far sexier "flume," but also to align it with other trail names in Tacoma, like the Prairie Line Trail and the Pipe Line Trail (see the pattern?). So, it sounds like "Historic Water Flume Line Trail," though it may not exactly trip lightly off the tongue, is the popular favorite at this point. Maybe it works better as an acronym...

What do you think of the HWFLT? How does the newly suggested alternative look to you?

Do you want to help the folks at Exit133 pay our bills and keep up with of all things Tacoma? Do you want to see even more coverage? Exit133 has always been free to read and comment, and it will stay that way. However, over the years, readers have contributed to the bank account to help us keep up our coverage of goings-on around town. Contribute and this message disappears!

Support Exit133



HWFLT?  Ditch it.  I can accept the simple “Flume Line Trail” but “Water Ditch” has a more SoTac feel.  And on Halloween we can change the name to “Water Witch Trail” and turn it into a haunted ride.  Can you do that with a flume?

January 20, 2015 at 9:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

4 | 0

Jim Bowman

How ‘bout a simple Water Line Trail?

January 20, 2015 at 9:40 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0


Now the bike and pedestrian path will be the separation between the road and the parking lots? Is that what this is relating? That sounds like a bad idea. Can someone explain further, please?

January 20, 2015 at 10:37 am / Reply / Quote and reply

0 | 0

Matt NewportRegistered

To address Christine’s question, yes, the path will be between the road and the businesses, like a giant well-marked sidewalk. This is how large trails like the Burke-Gilman run through busy corridors in Seattle as well. There were plenty of businesses on both sides of South Tacoma Way, but having this section on the north side will allign well with the section further down the hill near the Rescue Mission that is also on the north side. I think this is a great option, no matter what you call it.

January 20, 2015 at 11:25 am / Reply / Quote and reply

3 | 0

Tim Smith

The Flume Trail is much more historically correct than any ditch witch name someone downtown has been using for too long.  This has been brought up consistently by the South Tacoma Neighborhood council - over , and over, and over. In the summer, Tacoma still gets 40 to 60% of it’s water from the aquifer up through the pumps and though the waterpipe aligned under the trail. The Flume was an engineering marvel for the time- in Edison!

Alternative 1 is the best use of available space without losing lanes of traffic, while providing a separation from the traffic and not impacting the store fronts. Why not move the power lines underground so we don’t have anymore telephone poles like most modern cities would do?

January 20, 2015 at 6:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 0


I liked Alt. 1, but if it is too expensive and if, as Matt says, Alt. 5 is like Seattle’s Burke-Gilman, I’d be all for that.

January 21, 2015 at 7:27 am / Reply / Quote and reply

1 | 0

Post A New Comment

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Potentially Related Articles