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All Tunnels Reopened in Iron Horse State Park

By Darren Dencklau
Bicycle Paper
According to representatives from Washington State Parks, Tunnels 46 and 47 between Cle Elum and Thorp, Wash., and tunnels 48 and 49 between Hyak and Easton – which have all been closed since 2009 – are now officially open to non-motorized traffic.

A popular stretch of rail trail through Iron Horse State Park just became much easier to navigate. According to representatives from Washington State Parks, Tunnels 46 and 47 between Cle Elum and Thorp, Wash., and tunnels 48 and 49 between Hyak and Easton – which have all been closed since 2009 – are now officially open to non-motorized traffic.

Hikers, cyclists, and equestrians use Iron Horse State Park during the summer months as do cross-country skiers in the winter. Part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s John Wayne Pioneer Trail (JWPT), it’s located on the remnants of the former Chicago-Milwaukee-St. Paul-Pacific Railroad route and begins near North Bend, Wash., and extends all the way to the Columbia River.

In 2009, state inspectors closed five tunnels located on the JWPT because they were deemed unsafe due to falling debris, creating a few lengthy detours. Two years ago, the 2.3-mile Snoqualmie Tunnel was reopened for summer travellers – generally between Memorial Day and Labor Day – allowing easier access to the Cascade Mountains and beyond. Prior to then, the only option for cyclists was to use the old Sunset Highway or take Interstate 90, although there was a weekend bus shuttle between Cedar Falls and Hyak for a while.

Until recently, the other four tunnels have remained off limits to all users. As for tunnels 46 and 47, Washington State Parks states that it is legal to travel through them after filling out waivers located at drop boxes near the entrance of each.

Organizations such as the Mountains to Sounds Greenway and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy have been vocal about getting the tunnels repaired. Carl Knoc, Northeast Manager of Trail Development for The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, estimates the cost to reopen all four affected tunnels is around $3 million. He and others from the organization believe it is a small investment that will yield high returns, as it will increase trail-based tourism for communities that would otherwise not see these potential visitors.

On Saturday, June 29, Mountains to Sound Greenway is hosting “Explore the Greenway,” which takes registrants through the Snoqualmie Tunnel then 20 miles west to Rattlesnake Lake for a barbecue. Cost is $25 per person. Visit mtsgreenway.org/explore-the-greenway/trips/june-29-snoqualmie-tunnel-bike-ride or contact info@mtsgreenway.org to register.

To stay up to date on the latest developments visit traillink.com and http://www.parks.wa.gov/521/Iron-Horse.

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