An urban trail from the Tacoma Dome to the heart of the East Side opens to walkers and cyclists in mid-December.
Phase 2 of the Pipeline Trail is a 2.4-mile route that uses both completely rebuilt sidewalks along East I Street as well as a paved, lighted and landscaped 10-foot wide path between East 40th and 48th streets.
The project, and previously completed Phase 1, will take users as far south as East 56th Street in December.
“Imagine a trail where you can get on it and feel safe,” said Darius Thompson, the project’s manager for the city.
Eventually, the trail will run 15 miles and connect with the Foothills Trail in South Hill.
The newest phase connects Salishan, Swan Creek Park, the new Eastside Community Center, homes and businesses with the Tacoma Dome Station.
The $2.9 million project is a partnership between the city of Tacoma, Pierce County and Tacoma Water.
The newly paved route will have LED lighting, extensive landscaping, crosswalks with safety lights and signage.
The route is important for both recreational users and commuters, said Kristina Walker, executive director of Downtown On the Go, a Tacoma-based transportation advocacy group.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Walker said. “It is not only the start of connecting Tacoma with the rest of the county and Mount Rainier, but connecting within Tacoma and connecting the neighborhoods.”
A direct route to the Tacoma Dome Station is a major benefit of the trail, Walker said.
“Access to transit is really key to any of these trail projects,” she said.
Until now, dedicated bike and walking routes on the East Side have been on dirt or on short paved segments.
“We have these great little segments, but people don’t use them,” she said.
Pavement makes the route accessible to a wide range of users.
“It is a trail that is ride-able for all ages and abilities,” Walker said.
The city will begin Phase 3 of the project in 2019, Thompson said. It will continue the Pipeline Trail to just beyond the city limits at Waller Road East and 72nd Street East, a distance of 1.4 miles. It will be a paved, multi-use trail like the segment between East 40th and 48th Streets.
At that point, Pierce County takes over the project.
The county expects to complete a survey of the trail from that location to the intersection of 94th Avenue East and 122nd Street East in early 2019. Following that, trail design will begin, said county spokeswoman Libby Catalinich.
Also in 2019, the county will be conducting public outreach and master planning for 160-acre Orangegate Park, located at 84th Street East and 46th Avenue East, as well as Half Dollar Park, located at 94th Avenue East and 122nd Street East. Both parks are on the Pipeline Trail.
The county anticipates trail heads will be located at those parks, Catalinich said.
“It just seems like a no-brainer for our community to make this a safe corridor for folks traveling through the region,” said Liz Kaster, a transportation manager for the non-profit Puyallup Watershed Initiative.
The trail, which can deliver students to the East Side’s First Creek Middle School, is important in providing a safe route to the school.
Every week on average, a child is injured in a car versus pedestrian or bike collision in Tacoma, Kaster said.
“Many of those collisions are happening on the East Side of Tacoma,” she said.
The Pipeline Trail also can draw people to Swan Creek Park, which is growing in popularity.
A health and economic benefits report produced by the Watershed Initiative, showed $1 million in annual health benefits, $2.4 million in annual transportation benefits and $2 million in annual economic benefits if the Pipeline Trail were fully developed.
Deep underneath the trail is 4-foot diameter concrete water pipe. It moves water from state Route 161 and 128th Street East in South Hill to the Hood Street Reservoir in Tacoma, at South Tacoma Way and South Yakima Avenue.
Tacoma Water still will have access to the pipe, said Tacoma Public Utilities spokeswoman Chris Gleason.
“It’s a key part of our infrastructure because it connects to Pipeline 1 that carries water from the Green River, our main source of supply,” Gleason said.
Using city sidewalks (and heading south from the Tacoma Dome), the trail crosses I-5 on the new D Street overpass and onto McKinley Way. The state Department of Transportation estimates the overpass will be open to cars and pedestrians in early November.
The route then turns east onto East Wright Street and then south onto East I Street.
The trail makes a short jog on East Division Lane. A button-activated, flashing crossing signal is being installed there.
The route then will use four blocks of new sidewalks currently under construction on East I Street. Sidewalks on both sides of the street are being replaced.
“If we’re going to call this a trail, we need to make every element of this trail ADA compliant,” Thompson said. That means building new ramps for wheelchair access.
Walkers will use the sidewalks. Bikers will use the street.
The trail then turns east on East 40th Street for about two blocks before turning onto the new paved trail at Pipeline Road. As on Division Lane, a crossing with warning lights will help pedestrians cross the street.
Trail head parking at East 40th and Pipeline Road will be built.
From that point on, the trail is mixed use. Bikers, walkers and anyone else on a non-motorized vehicle will share it. A line dividing northbound and southbound traffic will be painted.
Although the pipeline continues to the southeast, the trail turns east on East 48th Street.
There, it meets Phase 1.
The different phases of the project don’t follow a linear pattern. Phase 1 was built in 2013 and is in the middle of the route.
That project established a 12-foot wide path from East 56th Street to East 48th Street around First Creek Middle School and along Swan Creek Park.
The route continues south of 56th Street but it uses gravel and dirt access roads.