Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The City Plans to Close "A" Street!...What?

No, the City of Tacoma will not be closing all of "A" Street in downtown Tacoma. However, I have heard a number of shocked, confused and concerned comments like this in the past couple weeks. Let me set the record straight.

Misinformed rumors of the "A" Street closure began in mid-May when the City announced plans for the long awaited Prairie Line Trail improvements. The Prairie Line railroad right-of-way, owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), runs from near South Tacoma Way to the Thea Foss Waterway and bisects the University of Washington Tacoma Campus.

The City has reached a proposed “win-win” agreement with BNSF in which the railroad company will trade the City a 20-foot wide strip of property within the Prairie Line right-of-way in exchange for the closure of the railroad crossing at "A" Street and Dock Street. The acquired land will provide a non-motorized trail link between the Thea Foss, UWT and amenities in downtown Tacoma. Another exciting feature of this proposal is the opportunity for an additional pedestrian bridge linking downtown to the Thea Foss (more details on this to come).

The rail crossing is commonly closed due to flooding and BNSF contends that the curve of the tracks at this location makes the crossing particularly dangerous for vehicles and pedestrians. Furthermore, the agreement states that the "A" Street crossing will not be closed until the new "D" Street overpass project (that provides access to Dock Street) has been operational for 90 days.

A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for June 17th, 5pm at the Tacoma Municipal Building.


  1. Lets get the all the facts first before we post a glowing review of the plan!

    1. BNSF is going to give the city 20’ of the 80’ right of way they own. As land values go up BNSF will probably sell the rest of the ROW to the adjacent land owners. The land owners can then redevelop their properties using that ROW land. This could create a “cannon” for the new trail if the property owners redevelop and new buildings are built to the new property lines. Think dark alley. Might not appeal to people wanting to use the trail. The city should go for the whole 80’ ROW.

    If BNSF really wants the “A” Street crossing at Dock Street closed then giving up an unused piece of land shouldn’t be a problem.

    2. The city currently has no plan for trail maintenance.

    3. The city has not planned on what to do with the A Street ROW except to put a chain link fence at Dock Street. Can it still be left open for a pedestrian access? Skate Park? Who knows? I know when I had an interested investor in the Foremost Dairy property one of the key features to the property was the easy access to the waterfront from “A” Street. Will closing “A” Street hurt the South Downtown area that is prime for redevelopment?
    “A” Street is almost direct access from Pacific Ave. and the closure will have more direct impact on the South Downtown/Pacific Ave. corridor than the Dome District with the new “D” Street overpass.

  2. Yes. Thank you for adding these important details. Points one and two are issues I have raised at meetings in the past. I couldn't agree more.

    Although, a large segment of the adjacent land is owned by UWT. The University is particularly concerned about campus security and is well versed in designing buildings for safety and the appropriate uses of their property.

    Also worth mentioning is the concern from the Dome District community that closing the A Street crossing eliminates an access point into the Dome District, although this issue may be mitigated by the opening of the new D Street overpass.

    Additionally, tied up in the Prairie Line deal is a proposal for BNSF right-of-way access to the ProLogis Park industrial development near South Tacoma Way.