The popular Foothills Trail has made steady inroads throughout the region, but the White River has remained a fast-flowing barrier, preventing a continuous ribbon a pavement from Pierce County into Enumclaw and points beyond.
Trail boosters have long dreamed of a way to solve the dilemma, but realize their options are limited due to the fact that millions of dollars would be needed to see a pedestrian walkway span the river.
While no one is claiming a resolution is at hand, the discussion has, at least, picked up steam. During the most recent meeting of the Enumclaw City Council, a potential solution was presented and a formal, five-way agreement is being finalized.
City Administrator Chris Searcy explained that a steel bridge spanning the Puyallup River is scheduled for replacement and, rather than heading to the scrap heap, is earmarked to continue serving the public in a less-demanding role. The bridge, just north of downtown Puyallup, provides a narrow, northbound two lanes across the river.
The bridge is the responsibility of the state’s Department of Transportation, which will be seeking an alternative use for the structure.
“The nature of its design is such that it has historical significance,” Searcy told the council. “Due to the federal funding involved, they’re required to look at opportunities to preserve it.”
One immediate alternative is that it be brought to the Plateau to connect the trail systems in Pierce and King counties. The bridge, built in 1925 and refurbished in1951, has a total length of 477 feet and is 21 feet wide.
The agreement now in the works would include a bridge committee consisting of membership from both counties, Enumclaw and Buckley, along with the DOT. King County would serve as the lead agency.
The city of Buckley was quick to jump on the plan, agreeing to the five-way interlocal agreement early last year.
A key piece of the puzzle is that none of the five agencies currently has money budgeted for a White River span. But there’s a belief that grant money could be available and the committee will be looking at opportunities, Searcy said. He noted Enumclaw Mayor Liz Reynolds has had tentative discussions about the bridge with Congressman Dave Reichert.
The Foothills Trail begins in Puyallup and continues to Sumner, south to Orting and on to South Prairie. Gaps still exist, but trail backers dream of the day when an entire 28-mile stretch of pavement is available to walkers, bike riders, equestrians – any nonmotorized form of transportation.