Exit133 is about Tacoma

Tacoma’s Agreements With BNSF Railway to Enhance Future Economic Growth

Tacoma, Wash. -- The City of Tacoma worked closely with BNSF Railway over the last seven years to reach agreements on donations of BNSF properties to the City and property access to BNSF’s site in South Tacoma. 

"These agreements will enhance Tacoma’s economic growth and set the stage to complete one of the most unique public amenities in the region," said Mayor Marilyn Strickland.

The first set of agreements pertains to the Prairie Line railroad right-of-way, which traverses downtown Tacoma between approximately South 15th and South 26th streets. What is envisioned is a Prairie Line Trail that serves as a non-motorized path connecting Dock Street and the Thea Foss Waterway with the University of Washington Tacoma and downtown amenities. There will also be a future opportunity to connect to the Water Ditch Trail along South Tacoma Way.  

“This is the culmination of great vision by the City and University of Washington Tacoma to seek this parcel, and by BNSF to donate an underutilized asset. This allows our community to create a vibrant Prairie Line Trail that continues downtown revitalization. My ultimate goal is for greatly improved, pedestrian friendly connections from University of Washington Tacoma to the waterfront,” said Council Member Robert Thoms, who worked closely with partners to finalize the donation and with the Puget Sound Regional Council to fund the project.

“We are really excited about this next step in the Prairie Line Trail," said Finance and Administration Vice Chancellor Harlan Patterson at the University of Washington Tacoma. "With the university and the City both moving forward on developing the trail, the project will quickly have a transformative impact downtown."

Under the Prairie Line agreements, BNSF will donate to the City a strip of property – generally 20 feet wide – between South 15th and South 26th streets. There will be a right of way 80 feet wide between South 23rd and South 25th streets and at street intersections. 
“BNSF is pleased to work with the City of Tacoma to help facilitate economic growth and enhance public access to the waterfront,” said BNSF Northwest Division General Manager Daryl Ness. “Washington is one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, and projects like this will not only help Tacoma’s economy, but the state’s as well.”

The City will in the future permanently close the crossing of BNSF's right of way on A, East 22nd and Dock streets, while BNSF authorizes the expansion of an existing bridge structure at South 15th Street and the construction of a future pedestrian overpass in a mutually agreed upon location between A and East D streets. 

BNSF will also explore potential future exchanges of its remnant properties for City streetscapes and other park-like amenities in the vicinity of South 17th and Hood streets and Pacific Avenue. It has obtained final approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to cease rail operations, and abandon and convey the Prairie Line Property.

The second set of agreements pertains to a future North Access Road which will connect South Tacoma over 1.83 acres of City-owned land located south of South 35th Street and east of Windom Avenue abutting Tacoma Public Utilities’ Water Operations Center to approximately 157 acres of developable property that BNSF owns.

“The North Access Road project is a win for both the City and BNSF,” said Council Member Joe Lonergan. “The lack of access to this large manufacturing and industrial use center has limited interest and even halted plans for this property. This creative solution eliminates those obstacles to progress and should allow us to successfully attract quality employers to this South Tacoma location, providing more local job options for the people of Tacoma.”

BNSF will build the North Access Road within eight years (plus one additional year if proper notice is provided to the City) and, as part of this set of agreements, also donate approximately 5.94 acres of land to the City for Tacoma Water’s use once the road is built. 

A letter of understanding between General Government and Tacoma Public Utilities at the City indicates that Tacoma Water would receive $398,575 from the City’s Public Works Department as compensation for use of the strip of property where the road is built should BNSF not donate the 5.94 acres of land to the City. Tacoma Public Utilities would also receive an amount equal to $8,000 per year (less revenues received) from General Government while the road is being built. 


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