History, politics, people of Oly WA

Why not punch a nice passenger line straight into downtown Olympia through Lacey?

Connect one of those green lines up with the light blue line: BANG. Passenger rail!

I swear I was going to write this piece way before the Olympian had a story yesterday. But, here it is: you know there used to be a rail line that passed through Lacey from a connection with a major line and into downtown Olympia?

Did you know that that rail line closed down in the 1990s and was eventually turned into a walking trail? And, did you know this sort of railbanking is sometimes reversed, trails back into rails-style?

Unfortunately, what was eventually turned into the Woodland Trail wasn’t railbanked at all, it was abandoned and taken over by the cities. Railbanking implies a continued ownership by a railroad company and a temporary use as a public trail.

From what I can tell, Burlington Northern totally walked away from the old line.

There is one section at the edge of the Lacey border that is still owned by Burlington Northern, but the rest of the old rail line is now owned by Lacey and Olympia.

And a discussion between local leaders about 10 years ago about local rail options didn’t cover reactivated this line much at all.

Here’s what I don’t get about what was going on in Olympia and Thurston County in the early 1990s. Why not use the old rail line as a passenger terminal, a way to bring Amtrack into Olympia proper? 

This is the is the same era that saw the old Amtrack shed at East Olympia replaced with a semi-useful station at Yelm Highway. The Centennial Station is still way out in the sticks though. So, instead of taking of half-step with Centennial, why grab the old Burlington line through Lacey and into Olympia and go whole hog and bring Amtrack Trains downtown?

I’m sure there would have been logistical challenges with turning a passenger train around Union Pacific line south of town, and possibly other logistical challenges I’m not getting. But, the history I’ve found no discussion at all about the idea. We seemed stuck on having passenger rail all the way out beyond Lacey and turning over an urban rail line to a trail.

Just seems weird to me.

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    That would be awesome to have high-speed rail from the mainline to downtown. The current connection (used by Tacoma Rail to serve the Port and Tumwater Mottman Industrial District) would not suffice. Trains keep to 5 or 10 mph on much of the track.

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