No votes cast

Ruston Tunnel


Asarco Smelter Tunnel

Rail and road tunnel portals, view from East

Photo taken by K. A. Erickson in February 2011


BH Photo #204388



The Ruston Tunnel was the last visible remnant of the former ASARCO smelter site. After winning the contract on December 30, 1911 with a bid of $21,528, Seattle firm, McDermott, Carmondy & Co. began construction in 1912 with assistance of engineer Lawson Ambrose Nicholson whose credits included Tacoma's Stadium High School.

The tunnel passed through a narrow section of hill beneath the sprawling network of flues and conveyors leading from smelter operations to the emissions stack. A Save the Tunnel Facebook campaign was launched but support failed to materialize even from a Ruston town historian Karen Pickett who was quoted regarding removal, “ … from a practical standpoint, it is a difficult spot, so I think it’s probably a good thing,” and “it's a gain (for the town).”

Demolition had been tied up in legal limbo as developers of the billion dollar redevelopment, Point Ruston, had issues regarding financial solvency and a labor dispute. These have for now been resolved and the project and a new route of Ruston Way is proceeding. Their planned method entails packing the tunnel full of dirt to then remove the roof and wall sections. The idea is that this way they will not damage the railroad portion still currently in use as the fill dirt will act as support. The fill will mostly be removed afterwards.

Links: (Who knows how long they will last or archive?)

A local man's send off page:


Local Newspaper link:



Tunnel under Asarco Smelter on N. 51st Street in Ruston
Ruston, Pierce County, Washington
Removed mid July 2011
Built 1912, Demolished 2011
- Lawson Ambrose Nicholson
- McDermott, Carmondy & Co.
- BNSF Railway (BNSF)
- Burlington Northern Railroad (BN)
- Northern Pacific Railroad (NP)
Total length: 325.1 ft.
Also called
Asarco Smelter Tunnel
Approximate latitude, longitude
+47.29786, -122.50743   (decimal degrees)
47°17'52" N, 122°30'27" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/537239/5238382 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Gig Harbor
Inventory number
BH 34430 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • July 17, 2011: Updated by K. A. Erickson: Tunnel demolished, filled in mid July