$2.1 million grant moves Danville-Urbana bike trail closer

SPRINGFIELD — A $2.1 million grant to the Vermilion County Conservation District means that the long-planned Kickapoo bike trail between Danville and Urbana is one step closer to development.

Federal funds for the 24.5-mile multi-use recreation path along U.S. 150 have been approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation, according to an announcement by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The grant, for $2,104,150, means that construction of the recreation trail will start on its east end, near a spectacular 100-year-old trestle over the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.

"It is probably going to be one of the most attractive pieces of the entire trail," said Mary Ellen Wuellner, deputy director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. "The cost of construction of the trail along that bridge is about a million dollars by itself."

The grant requires a 20 percent local match, she said.

"We'll be working to secure that match locally with donations" through the foundations of the conservation and forest preserve districts and the private, Urbana-based CCDC Foundation. "Once we have that, that will allow us to begin construction."

Building the entire project would cost at least $10 million, Wuellner said. It will be built in segments.

"We have developed cost estimates in segments and we will just work to develop segments over time as we raise funding and secure additional grants so that at some time in the future we will have the 24-mile stretch of trail from end to end," she said.

The Kickapoo trail, which would run from Smith Road in Urbana (just north of Weaver Park) to Kickapoo State Park west of Danville, would be along an abandoned railroad line now owned by CSX. Development of the trail has been under discussion and negotiation for almost 20 years.

"We hope we are very close to finalizing the purchase of the corridor. That unfortunately has not happened yet. We hope to be able to get to a closing pretty shortly," Wuellner said.

As planned, the trail would be a 10-foot-wide limestone path that would pass through St. Joseph, Ogden, Fithian and Oakwood, as well as rural areas.

Also planned, said Ken Konsis, director of the Vermilion County Conservation District, is another recreation trail to the district's environmental education center now under construction at Kennekuk County Park.

"What this means to us is that the trail system would go to Kickapoo State Park, where the (Vermilion County) fairgrounds is, and then the plan is to make a scenic river trail connecting to our education center which would add maybe 7 miles to it. We also have permission from the U.S. Department of Interior to promote that as headquarters of the national scenic river. It's all kind of tied together.

"We don't have anything in East Central Illinois like this. They have these in northern Illinois. Bloomington's got a fantastic one, and Springfield, but nothing here."

The Champaign County Forest Preserve District also had sought a grant for construction of the trail in Champaign County but was unsuccessful, Wuellner said.

"We weren't fortunate to get both grants this time around," she said. "But the project is really a collaborative effort anyway."

The grant to the Vermilion County Conservation District was the largest of nearly $50 million worth of community transportation projects in Illinois announced by Quinn and IDOT. In addition to bike trails, the projects include streetscapes, downtown plazas and bridge and underpass improvements.

"This major investment in community transportation projects throughout Illinois will help improve the quality of life for everyone," Quinn said in announcing the award. "These projects will create hundreds of jobs while preserving our heritage, beautifying communities and creating new transportation options across our state for pedestrians, bicyclists and others. I want to thank our Congressional delegation for securing the funds so that we can reinvest them back into our cities, towns and counties."

"Over the years, funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure has improved street safety and quality of living in Illinois communities," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

"Incorporating bike paths, bike lanes and sidewalks into the transportation system encourages physical activity and healthy lifestyles by providing a safe place to walk, jog and bike close to home."

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pattsi wrote on February 01, 2013 at 9:02 am

At long last--this idea has been on the drawing board for over 30 years. Take a moment to think about how much less the cost would have been 25 years ago.

illini_trucker wrote on February 01, 2013 at 9:02 am

I'm not holding my breath until its complete. Until then let's hope and pray that the funds don't get ummm.. Misallocated......

sameeker wrote on February 01, 2013 at 9:02 am

Where is a broke state getting 50 million for all of these grants?

billbtri5 wrote on February 01, 2013 at 11:02 am

isn't it great with only 46% borrowed from China and no plan to ever pay it back...i wonder how many Border Patrol Agents could have been hired for that amount?...

whatithink wrote on February 01, 2013 at 2:02 pm

What a waste of money.  I would love to see a paved path that would ACTUALLY get used.  A rock path will trash my bike, grow up and weeds, and will become abandoned and will look just as it does now within a few years.  Funny they want to start on the end that will never get used.  The CC Reservation District couldn't fund anything like this?  Oh wait, they probably spent all their money on the paved paths around Mahomet.

yates wrote on February 01, 2013 at 3:02 pm

I agree the money should be better spent but in the era of "get mine" if you don't take it, somewhere else (Chicago) will.

Sid Saltfork wrote on February 01, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That is the problem.  Everyone wants to "get mine".  The federal, and state governments are supposedly broke.  Programs have been cut for abused children, the elderly, and the disabled.  Debts owed are not being paid, and threatening to be cancelled.  Yet, the pork barrel politics continues on a "trail to nowhere".  Few people will use it.  Those that do use it have the money for other activities like riding their bicycles thru the country either one mile north, or south going east, or west.  It is greed, and hypocrisy at it's worst.  It reflects the "let them eat cake" attitude of the well off toward the working poor, and poor.  Shame on the supporters who pushed for this.  They will want law enforcement on bikes for it next with rest stops at intervals serving bottled water, and rest rooms that have to be cleaned.  Yes, "get mine", "get mine"...... is exactly behind it.