Downtown trolleys will be delayed until at least next spring, backers say

July 20, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Historic trolleys might not clang through downtown Issaquah until next spring, despite plans to relaunch the tourist attraction much earlier.

Trolley backers had hoped to run the historic cars from the Issaquah Train Depot downtown to the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce office by late summer.

Engineers had hoped to advertise the project to potential contractors by May, but August seems more realistic under the updated timeline.

The city oversees about $500,000 in grant money awarded to the project. Barb Justice and other Issaquah Valley Trolley Project volunteers manage the long-running effort to run trolleys in downtown Issaquah.

The group has become accustomed to the delays inherent in restoring 75-year-old trolleys and readying unused railroad tracks for the vehicles.

“Things seem to take 10 times longer than one would hope,” Justice, grants coordinator for the trolley project, said in early July.

City Senior Engineer Rory Cameron said the city last week submitted the application for authority to administer the grant. The city submitted the proposal to the state Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for managing federal transportation dollars in Washington.

Justice described the process as “dotting the Is and crossing the Ts.”

Cameron said the city has also worked with Darigold to prepare for upcoming track work. The downtown dairy sits adjacent to the track.

The trolley project inherited a pair of circa-1925 trolleys from Aspen, Colo., in the early 2000s. The unused trolleys await restoration in a downtown barn.

Justice predicted the restored Issaquah trolleys could serve as a tourism draw for rail and trolley enthusiasts.

First, the trolley group must complete the long-delayed repair and restoration effort.

The price tag for track repair could reach $100,000. Trolley restoration could run another $200,000 to $250,000. The trolley group also plans to use grant dollars to retrofit traffic signals along the trolley route.

The city issued a special permit for the project to allow track repairs to take place on a railroad bridge across the East Fork of Issaquah Creek.

Cameron estimated the track upgrades could be completed within a few weeks. Restoring the trolley cars — a painstaking process — could take longer.

In the meantime, Justice heads to Eastern Washington on summer weekends to operate historic cars for Yakima Valley Trolleys.

The trolley group leased a trolley from the Yakima organization during the previous decade, and ferried more than 5,000 passengers through downtown Issaquah between early 2001 and 2002.

Justice said the Issaquah group remains excited about the project, despite the delays.

“It would have been done 10 years ago with money without strings attached to it, but there’s no way we could have gathered the funds to do it on our own,” she said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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