Tom Kacich: Kickapoo Rail Trail not on track for July opening

Tom Kacich: Kickapoo Rail Trail not on track for July opening

Bad news for those hoping to use the first segment of the Kickapoo Rail Trail between Urbana and St. Joseph next month: It won't be ready.

The 6.7-mile section, the first of four that eventually will connect Urbana and Kickapoo State Park along a 24.5-mile trail, may not be ready for use until late August, said Dan Olson, executive director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.

The recreational trail had been expected to open in July.

"When we look at construction days, Cross (Construction Inc., the contractor on the project) still has plenty of construction days left on their contract," he said. "Those construction days may be hard to comprehend. But IDOT's definition is a nice day, it's not raining and it doesn't include weekends."

There were plenty of rainy days in April and May this spring — 29 out of 61 days those months — according to the Illinois State Water Survey. Together, the months had about than 3 inches more rain than normal.

Most construction work is done, Olson said, but drainage improvements, asphalt paving (near crossroads), concrete work and seeding along the trail still needs to be completed.

Cross has about 30 days left on its 150-day construction contract. After that, the engineering firm overseeing the project will develop a punch list of any items that still need to be completed.

"Once all of those are addressed, the (forest preserve district) will take possession of the trail and we will need a couple of weeks to put final touches on, such as general cleanup, trail head signs, pet waste locations, benches and all other standard items our patrons associate with our preserves and trails," Olson said.

He pleaded with trail fans to stay off the property until it's ready for use.

"We have an unbelievable number of people who are basically trespassing," said Olson. "Anytime anything is under construction it's that time when it is sensitive. We have sensitive areas out there already in terms of natural resources. But until everything is finished and the safety measures are in place, you can do more damage to the trail than when it's fully opened and done."

In St. Joseph, Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges said the village is working to spruce up nearby Kolb Park to make it a trailhead.

"It'll be quite a bit of improvement," she said. "We'll have a path that will lead from the trail to the park, and once in the park, we'll update our bathrooms there, which is a long-needed improvement. And there will benches, bike racks, a water fountain. ... It's going to be a pretty good-sized project."

The work is being done with the help of a $198,300 Federal Highway Administration grant.

Fruhling-Voges said she hopes to see the work start later this summer and be completed in about a year.

The mayor said that while there is "some apprehension" in St. Joseph about the rail trail, but "for the most part I think everybody's excited about it."

She said downtown business owners were planning a festival for the July opening of the trail.

"They were disappointed that it wouldn't be sooner," she said. "It's been a long time waiting for this thing. When I got on the (village) board in 2004, gosh, it was just something we talked about but we wondered if it would ever happen.

"But now that it is just around the corner I think it is very exciting. I'm excited for St. Joe because we are the lucky ones because they had enough (grant funds and donations) to at least get it through our village. We are going to benefit from it a lot."

Congressional security

Reps. John Shimkus and Rodney Davis had different takes this week on their personal security in the wake of last week's shooting at a Republican congressional baseball team's practice in Alexandria, Va.

Although both are members of the team, Shimkus wasn't at the practice that day because he is a pitcher and had thrown the day before.

"Usually we'll call the county chairman and state legislators and party chairmen to let them know of an appearance we're making in an area," he said. "And sometimes the local sheriff knows that and he'll show up or send someone. We'll just continue to do that."

Davis, though, said he thinks he'll make changes.

"Personally I'll take security, not only in Washington but back home, into consideration much more than I have in the past. That's just an obvious reaction for anyone who went through what I and the others did," he said.

Davis is a catcher on the team and was at the practice where gunman James Hodgkinson of Belleville fired at the Republican team members before he was shot by Capitol Police officers.

"What I witnessed is something I don't want anybody to have to witness again. So yes, there will be changes that I implement in my daily life and in my offices that will be a direct result of what I saw just five days ago."

Davis said, though, that the threat of violence was not a factor in his decision to not hold town hall meetings.

He said he always preferred having "policy discussions with people when they come in, in small groups and I can talk with them on a one on one. Events that are asked for by your political opposition don't lead to results and positive impacts on how to positively impact the legislative process.

"Are there always security concerns? There are now, much more so than they were before. I probably would have taken those security concerns less into consideration. But the sheer fact that this madman came from the state of Illinois makes me nauseous that he could have decided to go to anybody's public events and do what he did to us just five days ago."

Battle of the rich guys

More good news for broadcast TV stations: Gov. Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker are spending like crazy. And it's 17 months until Election Day.

At WCIA-TV Channel 3, Rauner's campaign has committed $34,035 for 92 commercials to run between June 18 and June 30.

Pritzker is responding with his own barrage: 40 30-second spots between June 13 and June 26, and 17 60-second spots between June 13 and June 23. He's spending a total of $32,250.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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787 wrote on June 21, 2017 at 7:06 am

The question is, how will the 'Rodney Stalkers' change their strategy, now that a Bernie supporter lost his marbles and started shootng?

They thought it was so much fun to intentionally stir things up, and now this.

I don't blame Rodney one bit.   How many people show up at these Rodney Stalker circus events, and have the capability of causing trouble?

 

jlc wrote on June 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

"Events that are asked for by your political opposition don't lead to results"

Especially when you've stated outright that you don't care what the people who didn't vote for you think. If you can only stand to listen to the people who agree with you, you're not doing your job.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 21, 2017 at 11:06 am

All across the country and this state bridges, highways, roads, and other infrastructure need essential repairs, or replacement.  However, a group of hikers gets a $200,000 federal grant for a trail across flat land.  Nothing is to prevent them from hiking on the county country roads that could be designated for hikers.  There would even be potty houses, and water available.  That would not appease the hikers though.  They want a designated trail next to a highway with toliets, water, and security.  They do not want to use the municipal parks for their walks.  They want to experience "nature" in all of it's glory.

Snakes, coyotes, and bugs will be a problem due to the trash, and potty houses.  Some outfit will have to be paid for the trash removal, and potty house cleaning.  Aerial crop spraying, harvesting with dust blowing, and storms will be problems also.  After a few years, the trail will need repair.  Sooner or later, the county taxpayers will be on the hook for a trail to nowhere that serves only the "temporary" residents.

Why not "SKI ILLINOIS" with John Deere tractors?   

Tyler2cent wrote on July 25, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Sid will be the guy littering beer cans on the trail.  That is if he ever leaves his mom's basement.