Which is faster and more efficient, government or the private sector?
At least in one instance, government is the winner. Seven years after negotiations began to swap land and other considerations for a stretch of former railroad right of way, and 14 months after the Tacoma city council approved the deal, the BNSF finally signed off.
That means that the city can proceed with final design and construction of its portion of the Prairie Line Trail - a long-dreamed-of liner park and bike-and-pedestrian path. The city will control the segments between S. 26th Street and S. 21st Street and between Pacific Avenue and S. 15th Street. The University of Washington Tacoma already owns the segment between S. 21st Street and Pacific Avenue an in in construction of the park and trail through its downtown campus.
A city announcement described the property this way: "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."
Tacoma has already received a grant from the Puget Sound Regional Council of $465,000 to design the trail. A second grant for construction, also from the regional council and for $1.9 million, has also been awarded.
The one-mile section of rail right of way brought the Northern Pacific Railway to tidewater in 1873 and assured Tacoma would be the location of the western terminus.
BNSF lawyers and board has taken more than a year to give final approval of the deal that was agreed to in principal in early 2013. In exchange for the Prairie Line property, BSNF won closure of roadway that crosses track adjacent to Interstate 705 at A. Street. It also gets property in South Tacoma that will allow construction of a northern access road to its property formerly known as the South Tacoma shops.