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Thursday, June 3, 2010 01:30 pm

Bike to the future

Springfield gets serious about cycling

Two cyclists cross a former railroad bridge-turned-bikepath on the Lost Bridge Trail.
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE

Planning for pedaling
In store for Springfield are a plethora of projects that should significantly enhance the city’s bike friendliness. Some are coming fairly soon, but others may take awhile.

With Springfield in the middle of a major environmental study concerning the expansion of rail activity through the city, it’s possible that two of the city’s three rail corridors could be abandoned if rail traffic is consolidated to one corridor. Planners are examining what to do with the potentially abandoned corridors, and one idea involves turning them into new trails that would link neighborhoods throughout the city with the downtown area and the city’s tourist attractions.

The SATS long-range plan calls for moving the Third Street and 19th Street rail corridors to the existing 10th Street corridor, and if that objective is fulfilled, the Third Street and 19th Street corridors could become a looped trail system connecting several of the city’s parks. A map of what this linked-trail system could look like is available at illinoistimes.com.

“It’s not certain,” says Jim Moll, the rail study project manager at Hanson Professional Services in Springfield. “It’s contingent upon there actually being abandoned corridors, and it’s contingent upon arranging the use of those corridors with the railroads. It’s also going to depend on the wishes of the neighborhoods, and funding will certainly be a factor. It’s going to depend on a lot of things, but it also has a lot of potential.”

While the possibility of converting those railways to bike paths is still years away, another railway-to-path conversion is right around the corner. Construction on the first segment of the Sangamon Valley Trail should begin as soon as funds are recieved, according to the Sangamon County Highway Department. The planned 38-mile trail follows an old railroad bed and will eventually slice down the western third of Sangamon County, connecting Girard in the south to Athens in the north. Right-of-way for the trail is already secured because it is owned and managed by DNR. The first 5.5-mile segment, connecting Centennial Park and Stuart Park on Springfield’s west side, will cost about $3.6 million to construct – mostly from federal stimulus funds, and should be completed next summer, the highway department estimates.

Sykuta defends the cost of such projects as investments in the future.

“Some people say that we shouldn’t be building bike trails when we have a $13 billion budget deficit in Illinois,” Sykuta says. “But governments work on more than one thing at a time, and supporting bicycling isn’t taking any money out of the state pension plan. You can do both.”

Another current project is the construction of a comfort station in Rochester along the Lost Bridge Trail, which covers five miles from the Illinois Department of Transportation building on Dirksen Avenue to Rochester. The comfort station is planned to open this month and will feature water fountains, picnic tables, vending machines and a unisex, accessible restroom. That project cost about $12,500, of which $10,000 was federally funded.

At least 40 projects listed in the SATS report will add 111 miles of new bikeways in and around Springfield, more than tripling the current total of 35 miles. The projects include 13.8 miles of new bike lanes, 13 new sections of trails covering 56 miles, and 41.2 miles of wide shoulders along 14 sections of existing and future roads. The projects are separated into three categories, based on the availability of funding for each.

Seven projects are “committed,” meaning funding has already been secured; these projects include the first section of the Sangamon Valley Trail, wide shoulders on sections of Cardinal Hill Road, Old Jacksonville Road and Woodside Road, as well as bike lanes on part of Meadowbrook Road and a trail along part of the Stanford Avenue extension. These projects will begin in 2011.

Twenty-one projects are “planned,” which means they will be started as funding becomes available. Such projects include additional bike lanes along Iles Avenue and Koke Mill Road, finishing the Sangamon Valley Trail, and a 7.2-mile trail from Williamsville to Sherman, among other projects.

“Future” projects, of which there are 12, are included in the plan “to make the vision complete, but are not expected to be implemented within the next 25 years,” according the SATS report. Those projects include wide shoulders along Cantrall Creek Road and Spaulding Orchard Road, as well as more bike lanes along Iles Avenue.

In addition to new bikeways, the SATS report calls for the installation of bike racks on 50 percent of buses operated by the Springfield Mass Transit District by the year 2013.

“By connecting the two modes of transportation, users will be able to extend their journeys, reaching destinations currently too far to walk to/from bus routes,” the SATS report says. “The SMTD may also see a rise in users outside of their district boundaries biking in from areas such as Chatham and Rochester that have trail connections near SMTD service.”

SATS is also preparing to develop a Bike and Pedestrian Way Plan by the end of 2012, which will help set goals and priorities for developing bikeways in the future, and it has set specific goals for bike development. One goal is to include a bikeway or walkway project in each Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) – a four-year plan laying out projects with estimated costs and funding sources – which means Springfield will likely have at least one bike project in progress during each four-year segment until 2035. Another goal of the long-range plan is adopting by 2011 a Complete Streets Policy Statement, a policy guide that would shift development of roads away from a cars-only focus toward making roads safe for all modes of transportation.

Dave Sykuta, SBAC chairman, says Springfield cyclists need to be patient in waiting for improvements to bike infrastructure.

“It’s not going to be an overnight process,” Sykuta says. “It’s going to take some time, but I think we are making progress. I see a lot of potential.”

In the meantime, bike planners and advocates say it’s important that motorists and cyclists learn to share the road.

“There has to be awareness,” Sykuta says. “I know everybody’s got horror stories, but you have to learn to share the road. The bike people are not all pure, either. It’s going to require cooperation and awareness. We kind of see ourselves as missionaries, going out and pushing that message.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

Click to enlarge this image.

Click here to enlarge this map.

%uFEFF Ma
p #
Project (listed alphabetically) Jurisdiction Accomodation
Length
(Mi)
Status
1
11th St Springfield Bike Lanes
3.1
Existing
2
11th St Extension Springfield Trail
1
Committed
3
Archer Elevator: Greenbriar to Wabash Springfield Bike Lanes
1.4
Planned
4
Bradfordton Rd Extension: Jefferson St
to Moore Rd
County Wide Shoulder
1.2
Future
5
Bradfordton Rd Extension: Moore Rd to
North Cantrall Creek Rd
County Wide Shoulder
4.3
Future
6
Bradfordton Rd: Jefferson to Washington County Wide Shoulder
1.5
Planned
7
Bradfordton Rd: Johanne Ct to Wabash Ave Springfield/PD Trail
0.6
Planned
8
Bradfordton Rd: Polecat Creek to IL 4 County Wide Shoulder
2.4
Future
9
Bradfordton Rd: Spaulding Orchard to
Polecat Creek
County Wide Shoulder
3.5
Future
10
Cantrall Creek Rd and North Cantrall Creek Rd County Wide Shoulder
4.1
Future
11
Cardinal Hill Rd County Wide Shoulder
3.8
Committed
12
Cardinal Hill Rd: Mechanicsburg to I-72 County Wide Shoulder
2.6
Planned
13
Cockrell: Hollis to Mathers Springfield Bike Lanes
0.9
Planned
14
East Lake Shore Drive Path County Trail
0.8
Existing
15
Franklin Middle School Path Franklin Middle School Trail
0.1
Existing
16
Gordon Dr: Plummer to Pulliam Extension Chatham Trail
1.4
Planned
17
Gordon Drive: 0.6 mi. south of Walnut to
Pulliam Ext.
Chatham Trail
1.2
Planned
18
Hollis: Merchantile to east of Cockrell Ln Springfield Bike Lanes
0.4
Planned
19
Iles: Archer Elevator to Lenhart Springfield Bike Lanes
1
Planned
20
Iles: Emerson to Farmindale Rd Springfield Bike Lanes
1.2
Future
21
Iles: Koke Mill to Meadowbrook Springfield Bike Lanes
0.8
Existing
22
Iles: Lenhart to Emerson Springfield Bike Lanes
1.3
Future
23
Iles: Meadowbrook to Archer Elevator Springfield Bike Lanes
0.3
Planned
24
Interurban Trail Springfield/Chatham/PD Trail
8.4
Existing
25
Iron Bridge Rd: Woodside Rd to Walnut St County Wide Shoulder
3
Future
26
Koke Mill Rd Springfield Bike Lanes
2.1
Existing
27
Koke Mill: Jefferson to Old Jacksonville Springfield Bike Lanes
2.3
Planned
28
Leland Grove Path Leland Grove Trail
1
Existing
29
Lenhart: Old Jacksonville to Bunker Hill Springfield Bike Lanes
2.1
Planned
30
LLCC to UIS Trail UIS Trail
1.2
Existing
31
Lost Bridge Trail and connectors Rochester/Springfield/State Trail
7.3
Existing
32
MacArthur: I-72 to Woodside Rd at
Iron Bridge Rd
County Trail
1.5
Planned
33
Meadowbrook Rd Completion Springfield Bike Lanes
0.3
Committed
34
Meadowbrook: Washington to
Old Jacksonville
Springfield Bike Lanes
1
Planned
35
Mechanicsburg Rd: I-72 to Sangamon River County Wide Shoulder
4.6
Planned
36
Mercantile/Bradfordton connector
to south of Mathers Dr
Springfield Bike Lanes
0.8
Future
37
Old Jacksonville Rd County Wide Shoulder
4.6
Existing
38
Old Jacksonville Rd County Wide Shoulder
5.4
Committed
39
Plummer Blvd: Extension west to Bradfordton Chatham Trail
1.4
Planned
40
Plummer Blvd: Ravinia to Ptarmigan Chatham Bike Lanes
0.8
Planned
41
Pulliam Rd Extension: Bradfordton Ext.
to Il 4 & Gordon Dr to I-55
Chatham Trail
3.5
Future
42
Pulliam Rd Extension: IL 4 to Gordon Dr Chatham Trail
1.7
Planned
43
Rochester Rd County Wide Shoulder
1.4
Existing
44
Rochester Trail Rochester/Springfield/State Trail
0.9
Existing
45
Sangamon Valley Trail County Trail
5.7
Committed
46
Sangamon Valley Trail County Trail
27.4
Planned
47
Spaulding Orchard Rd: Curran Rd
to Farmindale Rd
County Wide Shoulder
1.3
Future
48
Spaulding Orchard Rd:
Mercantile/Cockrell to Curran Rd
County Wide Shoulder
2.3
Future
49
Stanford Ave Springfield Bike Lanes
1.1
Existing
50
Stanford Ave Extension Springfield Trail
1.7
Committed
51
Stanford: 6th St to Taylor Ave Springfield Trail
1.7
Planned
52
Toronto Rd Springfield Bike Lanes
0.5
Existing
53
Wabash Trail Springfield/Chatham/PD Trail
2.4
Existing
54
Williamsville to Sherman Trail Williamsville/Sherman Trail
7.2
Planned
55
Woodside Rd County Wide Shoulder
1.2
Committed


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