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$9 million to reopen John Wayne Pioneer trail
One of western Washington’s most popular trails is out of commission indefinitely, as the state government considers ways to fund the $9 million repairs needed to ensure its future viability. Falling rocks and debris in the five John Wayne Pioneer Trail tunnels prompted the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission to close the tunnels. The tunnels are one of the features of the 100-mile-long rail-trail over the Cascades from Cedar Falls to the Columbia River. They provide one of the only non-vehicle routes between Washington’s west and east, and are a favorite trail of local bicyclists and hikers seeking to explore the Iron Horse State Park. Engineering firm Kleinfelder conducted a safety review of the tunnels and suggested their immediate closure. In a press release issued last week, the commission said that a reopening date had not been scheduled at this time. “The report from Kleinfelder contains options for short-term action steps to reduce areas with high or very high hazard ratings to a moderate rating,” the statement read. “The report also estimates costs to bring all tunnels to a low hazard rating at an estimated $9 million. “Funds for repairs have been included in agency budget requests for the 2009-2011 biennium.” But Chairperson of the Foothills Branch of The Mountaineers, Fran Troje, is concerned that the tunnels may stay closed for some time. “$9 million, when the state is already in the red, and they are having to let go of rangers and other services? I am worried this will be left out of the state government’s plans,” she said. “It came as a real shocker to me that they had done the study and already made their decision. “Typically we would have been more involved in the process.” Troje said that the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a favorite among local hikers, and its loss would be a devastating one for supporters of parks maintenance and wildlife education, like the Mountaineers. The trail winds through Iron Horse State Park, a 1,612-acre park that was part of the route of the Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad. Most of the tunnels were built in the early 1900s. The tunnel at Snoqualmie Pass was built to avoid avalanches on Snoqualmie summit.