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Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail

By Jake Lynch

Washington's Iron Horse State Park is one of America's iconic rail-trails. Following the path of the former Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad east out of Seattle, the 82-miles of the Iron Horse pass through the stunning scenery for which the Pacific Northwest is famous, from the base of Rattlesnake Mountain all the way to the Columbia River.

However for the past few years much of the trail has been out of action, with falling debris forcing the closure of a number of the historic railroad tunnels that are a feature of the rail-trail and carry it through the topographically challenging region known as the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

Water infiltration and many decades of freeze-thaw cycle led to "spalling" in the concrete tunnel liners, with fragments of material flaking from the walls and roof. After a safety assessment, Washington State Parks decided to close them until they could be repaired.

Now, some great news for rail-trail fans. After two years of engineering and construction work, last summer Washington State Parks, which manages the corridor and the tunnels, was able to reopen Snoqualmie tunnel 50. And work is now underway to repair the lining inside tunnels 48 and 49, to the east.

"If the weather holds, we believe we can finish all the structural work this year," says Nikki Fields. Washington State Parks trails coordinator. "We will still need to come back in the spring to do the final trail grading, ditch reshaping, and hydroseeding. Weather permitting, we expect them to be completely done by next summer."

Of course, such work is not cheap. Tunnels 46 and 47, further east near the town of Thorp, remain closed for now, pending funding to work on them.

"They may require a different solution than the other tunnels because they were constructed through loose material, instead of through solid rock," Fields says. "We need funding to design and then carry out those repairs."

Of course, when that funding becomes available will dictate when the necessary work can be done and the tunnels reopened. Like many states, Washington is facing the challenge of fitting important improvements and services into an ever tighter budget, and is being forced to form strict priorities to decide what gets funded and what does not. 

As not only an incredible adventure for local trail users but also a national and international tourist destination and a unique treasure of the nation's railroad history, the Iron Horse State Park has great importance to the state of Washington and the American trail community. Supporters are urged to contact the office of Governor of Washington Christine Gregoire to let her know that repairing the Iron Horse State Park tunnels should be a priority.

For updates on the tunnel repairs visit www.parks.wa.gov/parks

Photo of Iron Horse State Park, top, by RTC
Photo of tunnel inspection courtesy Washington State Parks 

 

 


Posted Mon, Dec 3 2012 12:42 PM by Jake Lynch

Comments

ken breault wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 5 2012 4:25 PM

12/4/012

Dear Governor Gregoire:

Keeping the Iorn Horse rail trail open is an economic boom for your state.  It will bring much needed construction jobs.  

  It also has an effect on your local stores and hotels, etc.  It is a win-win situation for everyone.

 Just go on line and check out the Rails to Trails web site.

It tells you all the good things that bike trails have done for all the states.

Respectuflly,

Ken Breault

Bob McEwen wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 5 2012 5:25 PM

My wife and I would travel down there from B.C. to ride it and my friends would travel from CA to join us.

We have bookmarked the trail for a ride next year

Mary Davis wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 5 2012 5:59 PM

Dear Bovernor Gregoire:

I can't wait until this entire trail is open for bike riders.  My friend and I have ridden several Rail-Trails and love them.  WE'd like to ride one in each state.  We meet so many nice people on the trails, and I would think these would be good for business.  There are many people who seak out these trails for recreation.  Please complete this trail!

Pete Letourneau wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 5 2012 7:19 PM

Dear Governor Gregoire and Governor elect Inslee, the Ironhorse trail is a magnificent facility which provides users with a panorama of the best of Washington scenery.  It promotes the healthy lifestyle of citizens whether on horse, on bikes or on foot.  There are even good opportunities for safe exploration of the area for mountain climbers.  

This is a treasure for the state which all can enjoy at a nominal cost.  It deserves the continued support and funding which have been provided.  Thanks for your consideration.

Jim Lathrop wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Thu, Dec 6 2012 1:16 AM

These types of projects, if developed and managed properly, can absolutely become income generators for a community/region. We spent 4 days in the Couer D'Alene Idaho area last summer riding the Trail of the Coeur D'Alene and the Trail of the Hiawatha and are planning to return again in 2013.

Gordon Hyatt wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Thu, Dec 6 2012 8:30 AM

This trail sounds fantastic.  I certainly hope that state can prioritize to get the work done to open this trail and reap the benefits.  I will definitely organize a trip with our club from Chicago to see the completed trail!  Can't wait.

Marie Pinson wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Thu, Dec 6 2012 12:33 PM

Wonderful trail.  This year I ran a marathon starting at and thru the Snoqualmie pass tunnel 50.  Beautiful scenery with views of multiple falls and the river below.  I'm looking forward to running this trail again, and exploring the rest of this gorgeous trail system in 2013. I'm happy to hear about the efforts to keep a our nations historic railroads open to the public.  It's amazing to think that the railroads opened up our economic opportunities in the west. It was well worth the road trip from California.  

Linda D. Jones wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Fri, Dec 7 2012 10:29 AM

Sent to Gov. Gregoire:

I was thrilled to hear about the repair of the bridges on the Iron Horse Rail Trail. My husband and I, like other active retirees, choose destination rail trails to drive our vacation plans. If the Iron Horse can be cycled safely, it will be a priority destination for us. Good work!

Mary Kowalski wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Mon, Dec 10 2012 7:34 AM

Dear Governor Gregoire,

I would like to encourage you to support the improvements to the Iron Horse Rail Trail and other related trail projects in your jurisdiction. Rail Trails accommodate an avenue for health and economic benefit. Please consider all the advantages of investing in the healthy future of the generations to come.

Respectfully,

Mary Kowalski

Martin Wallace wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 12 2012 8:25 AM

Hope to ride on this trail this summer when I come out to work on a film project.

Mary Ellen wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Wed, Dec 12 2012 3:03 PM

Looking forward to visiting the trail when it is completed and spending a lot of retirement dollars in the state! Looks like an amazing gem of a trail! There is no distance too far to travel to enjoy a splendid trail through a beautiful area!

Carol Cuddy wrote re: Washington: Tunnel Reopened and Others in the Works on Iron Horse Rail-Trail
on Sun, Dec 30 2012 3:11 PM

Dear Governor Gregoire,

My husband & I have traveled world-wide looking for such recreational trails.  In fact, in 2009 we hired Silver Bike Tours of Spokane to trek us (about a dozen of us) on the Spokane River Centennial Trail, the North Idaho Centennial Trail, the Coeur d'Alenes Trails and then we got transported up to BC for some more spectacular riding.  We are always amazed at how many people are looking for this type of vacation.  We would skip cruises and other such vacations if we could find bicycle trails!    

 

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