Trolley in downtown Issaquah on track to open next summer

A downtown trolley project that's been in the works for over 10 years is expected to finally open next summer.

A downtown trolley project that’s been in the works for over 10 years is expected to finally open next summer.

“It’s been a long time making it happen,” said Jean Cerar, chair of the Issaquah Valley Trolley Committee. “There have been some pretty dedicated volunteers.”

When the Issaquah Historical Society refurbished a downtown train depot in 1994, there was always the hope to eventually have rolling cars along the attached track, she said.

Now the trolley will provide a link between the historical depot museum and Gilman Village during holidays and busy weekends.

It’s expected to take pressure off of the roads downtown, especially during community events like the Friday evening ArtWalk between May and September.

Although the trolley is practical, it’s also about history and tourism, Cerar said.

The group tested the popularity of having a trolley in 2001, by renting one from Yakima Valley. The single car only ran four hours a day on weekends for half a year, but still served 6,000 riders.

“People just love to ride trolleys,” Cerar said. “It brings people downtown.”

Although the rides will be short, volunteer conductors plan to tell stories of old downtown during the ride.

“It also gives us an opportunity to interpret what it felt like coming into issaquah in the late 1800s,” she said.

The restoration of the former Burlington Northern track is expected to take about a month, and the trolley car about three, said Rory Cameron, the City of Issaquah’s senior transportation engineer.

The city, which agreed to manage the project, will go to bid on the restoration of the track and trolley at the beginning of the year.

The city took bids for the track restoration alone in September, but city administration decided to rebid the project alongside the trolley restoration.

“They want to make sure they’re able to meet the budget,” Cameron said.

The trolley group won three federally-funded grants to pay for the bulk of the project. It then won several smaller grants, including money from the city’s hotel tax, to meet the $47,000 required to leverage matching money grants.

Although the city agreed to manage the restoration project, the Issaquah History Museums will run the trolley and pay for the operation costs.

“We certainly hope that it will be (open) this summer,” Cerar said. “It adds vitality to downtown.”