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Pierce County approves demolition of damaged Spiketon Ditch Bridge, leaves gap in Foothills Trail indefinitely

Map showing the Foothills Trail closure between South Prairie Trailhead and 268th Avenue Court E.
The closure during From Pierce County Parks.

Bridge inspectors who checked out the Foothills Trail’s Spiketon Ditch Bridge last November must have seen something very scary because Pierce County not only closed the old rail bridge immediately after the inspection, they declared it an emergency and will tear it down this month. “The bridge is stressed under its own weight and any additional load placed on the bridge could result in collapse,” according to Pierce County Parks. No replacement is yet planned.

Tearing down a bridge before it collapses and causes a tragedy is obviously the smart and responsible thing to do. However, it has created a big problem for the Foothills Trail, one of the world’s most beautiful rail trails. Not only is there no suggested detour, Pierce County Parks does not recommend even trying.

“Pierce County Parks, working in conjunction with the Pierce County Engineer, have studied the roadway network and determined that no routes exist around the bridge closure that provide pedestrian or cycling facilities,” the department wrote in an FAQ about the bridge. The only nearby detour option is to bike on Pioneer Way E (SR-162), which has very skinny shoulders and no sidewalks. It’s doable for road cyclists, but is not going to be a viable option for people who mostly feel comfortable riding on trails and quality bike lanes. It’s definitely not an accessible detour option.


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The doomed bridge is an aging timber-supported structure that cannot be easily repaired, so the county decided that rather than build a temporary bridge they will instead pursue a new permanent bridge. However, there is no current timeline for replacement, and Pierce County Parks notes that “the bridge closure may be in place for several years.”

This is awful news for South Prairie, Buckley and all users of the Foothills Trail. Hopefully Pierce County makes this project a priority and finds the funding to expedite a replacement. It will be a bummer later this year when the new White River Foothills Trail bridge finally opens across the Pierce-King border only to have the trail end in a new missing bridge four miles later. This trail in the foothills of Mount Rainier just can’t catch a break.


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3 responses to “Pierce County approves demolition of damaged Spiketon Ditch Bridge, leaves gap in Foothills Trail indefinitely”

  1. Andy Sapuntzakis

    That area is weird. They’ve been using what looks like a “Bailey bridge” for years where 162/Pioneer Way crosses over the Foothills Trail. How long will that last, and is there a plan to replace it?

    1. R

      It seems like the county could ask to borrow some of WSDOT’s Bailey Bridge components while they figure things out, it’s not like they’d need the capacity of multiple segments ganged together.

  2. Nick van den Heuvel

    Where they are closing it implies people should use 268th Ave Ct E to get to Pioneer Way E, but 168th Ave Ct E is a well signposted private road. Looking at Strava Heatmap, it looks like people are currently using it. Not using the private road, the only way would be to leave the trail is near Linda Campbell Memorial Bench and take SR 165 to Pioneer Way E. This is what I did my first time riding the trail in 2017 when there was a similar trail closure in place.

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