Prairie Line Trail Designs - City-Owned Sections

At this week’s study session, Council got a presentation on final design plans for City-owned segments of the Prairie Line Trail.  Design plans for these sections - several blocks south of the UWT campus through the Brewery District, and extending north from the campus past the Tacoma Art Museum to connect to the Foss Waterway - were developed by the same firm responsible for the Prairie Line Trail UWT Station design.

The plans focus on a phased approach for the trail, which they break down into segments to more specifically address block-by-block character, challenges, and opportunities along the length of the trail.  Phase one will focus on the basics of creating a functional and attractive linear park, giving bicyclists and pedestrians a corridor through the heart of downtown to the Foss waterfront.  Along most of the trail, future phases of development are dependent on acquisition of more land, and of course more funding.  

Aside from the physical design of a multi-modal trail, the presentation focused on fitting in with existing uses - including vehicle and other access for businesses that currently use the right of way included in the plans.  The economic development potential of the trail was also discussed; a major goal for the trail is that it serve as more than just a conduit for nomotorized traffic, but as a space that attracts visitors and encourages them to stay.  

Continuity was also named as a guiding principle.  Users should have the feeling that they’re on the same trail the whole time, but with pockets of character and interesting features in keeping with surrounding uses.  

The trail was discussed in segments.

Overlook Street - The City has a 20-foot right of way here that must be centered on the rails, but the rails themselves don’t run precisely down the middle of the corridor.  The challenge is to provide a corridor for pedestrians and bicyclists passing through, while maintaining vehicle access and parking.  The result is a fairly narrow five-foot sidewalk centered on the rails, with a crushed basalt strip, mimicking what you see around train tracks, creating a buffer zone for vehicles to back into.  The big picture dream for this section includes mixed-use development on both sides of the trail, and the ability to develop the full 80-foot right-of-way into an open space with landscaping, art, and a more park-like feel.

Water Street - The design here can use the full 80-foot right-of-way with the rails fully visible.  In the long-term vision, this would be a fully banked landscape with water running through a park-like open space, creating pockets for activity.  

Urban flexible - This space is more flexible, allowing opportunities for art installations, gathering spaces, and other uses, as the trail approaches the crossing at 21st, and transitions into the UWT Station portion. In the long-term vision, this strip would be bordered by live/work spaces facing onto the trail.  

Phase 1 plans show a bare-bones trail design.

Phase 1 plans show a bare-bones trail design.


Phase 2 designs show a richer environment filling expanded space.

Phase 2 designs show a richer environment filling expanded space.

Art Park - Picking up again on the north end of the UWT campus, this is the segment that runs by the Tacoma Art Museum.  The full right-if-way here measures 55 feet, with very little upland space to work with.  The existing sidewalk would be removed, and a sloped, vegetated bank created.  Basic implementation would include a linge of trees and the trail.  The long-term dream would be to acquire the rest of the land from BNSF to expand this strip into an art park.  

Artist rendering of possible phase 2 design for the Foss Connector ramp.

Artist rendering of possible phase 2 design for the Foss Connector ramp.

Foss Connector - This last segment, which connects the upland Prairie Line Trail with the Foss, is possibly the most technically challenging, with that tricky intersection under I-705 and the curving ramp down to water level to navigate.  In the near term, minor modifications would be made to the confusing intersection; in the long term, more structural changes might be possible to improve the flow of traffic.  Designs show the ratio of car to pedestrian/bicycle space on the ramp shifting to narrow drive lanes, allowing for both bike and pedestrian access, and possibly seating along the ramp.  The ramp itself would become a feature in the landscape, with a possible art installation creating both screening and interest for passersby.  

James Howard Kunstler once said that Tacoma is really good at creating beautiful public spaces where no one wants to be. Does this look like a design that could change that?

Download the full June 4, 2013 presentation for more.


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