At this week’s City Council study session we got a look at the new design plans for the Prairie Line Trail – UWT Station.
About a year ago, we saw the first set of proposed designs for the project, which UWT was calling the “Hood Corridor.” Those designs (and the name) met with some challenges over bikeability and historic character. The University changed the project name to the “Prairie Line Trail, UWT Station,” and took some time to reconsider the designs. Ultimately they came back with the plans presented this week.
The new design makes changes to improve bicycle access and to better honoring the area’s industrial past and the historical significance of the railroad terminus. The bike corridor looks more like a true corridor, running straight through the space, rather than taking jogs around other design elements.
The rails remaining from the train line that gives the trail its name take a prominent place in the design, with plans showing surrounding landscaping and paving brought to their level, but not covering the metal. Rails run through simple concrete pavers, through grass, and through rain gardens.
Images from the presentation available on the UWT “project page”: show rails with railroad ties running through a series of rain gardens at various levels of fullness.
21st Street Crossing
Another challenge related to this project is figuring out how the Prairie Line Trail will cross 21st Street in a way that is safe for bikes, pedestrians, and drivers, while minimizing the disruption to both the bike corridor and the major arterial street. We saw several suggested solutions presented back in May of last year, and this week we see a plan for preferred alternatives in three phases. Phase one looks like it would basically maintain the flashing light crossing we’ve got now, which is far from ideal.
Phase two would implement a “double median,” shrinking vehicle traffic to three lanes, and allowing bicycles and pedestrians to cross at the mid-block Prairie Line Crossing with a couple of protective medians. It looks a little like a game of frogger.
Phase three is a ways off, and would require some significant construction, but the ultimate goal is a tunnel for bikes and pedestrians to cross under 21st Street. The tunnel option was ruled out last we heard, but it looks like it’s back in.
UPDATED: A source with knowledge of the project that wishes to remain anonymous has told us that “the City is leaning toward long-term road diet as the likely long-term solution. The “pie in the sky” of the future would be the grade separation. Tunnel has
zero very little support.”