Work could begin as soon as this year on two of the three multi-use trail projects in Champaign County that are getting more than $2.5 million in federal funds trough the Illinois Department of Transportation.
MAHOMET — Work could begin as soon as this year on two of the three multi-use trail projects in Champaign County that are getting more than $2.5 million in federal funds trough the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Grants announced Saturday are for an Urbana-to-St. Joseph portion of the Kickapoo Trail project ($1.84 million); an expansion of Rantoul's downtown bike path ($505,320); and a new path along Illinois 47 in Mahomet ($293,780).
The 24.5-mile Kickapoo Trail project eventually will link Urbana with Kickapoo State Park in Vermilion County. The grant announced Saturday would cover 80 percent of the construction costs of a 6.42-mile segment from High Cross Road in Urbana to Main Street in St. Joseph. The segment would be owned and maintained by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District.
The Vermilion County Conservation District already has received a similar federal grant to build its first phase of the trail.
"What we need to do now with the Kickapoo project is to work at raising the match for this grant, which is about a $450,000 match," said Mary Ellen Wuellner, deputy director of the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. "What we'll probably do now is put out a qualifications-based proposal to select an engineering firm to oversee the construction project. We may work on getting that done pretty soon, now that we have that grant secured.
"Ideally, we would like to do that this year. The CCDC Foundation has been working hard to raise private donations." Wuellner said the foundation already has raised more than $65,000 in private donations "and now that this grant is in place, I'm hopeful that some additional gifts toward this project will start to come in. If that's the case, we could be looking at going out for construction bids within a year."
CCDC and the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation are raising matching funds for the Vermilion County section of the trail, she said.
"They're really kind of in the same boat as we are, where they can begin construction on their end as soon as their match funding is raised. They're looking at a little more than the $450,000 we need," Wuellner said. "The amount that we need from the community is still a large sum of money. But if we can get the funds raised, we could actually begin work on both ends of the trail at nearly the same time."
Completing the remaining 6.2 miles of the trail in Champaign County will require additional grants and private fundraising, she noted.
"This will get us a little bit more than halfway" through Champaign County, she said.
Although the grant for the Champaign County portion of the Kickapoo trail was expected, the money for the Route 47 multiuse trail in Mahomet was "more of a surprise," Wuellner said.
"I never expect grants because I just don't want to count my chickens. But IDOT and (the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) have been so incredibly supportive of this project that we would have been very disappointed if this Kickapoo grant hadn't come in. We felt like the odds were in our favor," she said. "But I'm really delighted they funded the Mahomet project, too."
It will help pay for a trail on the east side of Illinois 47, from the Briarcliff subdivision north of Lake of the Woods Park and south to around U.S. 150 in Mahomet. The village of Mahomet and the forest preserve district will provide the local matching funds.
The new trail will tie into existing trails along U.S. 150 and Lake of the Woods Road.
"Because I-74 really cuts Mahomet in half, it has made it difficult for people who want to walk or bike through town from one side to the other," Wuellner said. "Getting across I-74 has been difficult because there aren't a lot of roads to take you there — and those that do are pretty heavily traveled. But these two multiuse trails will really help that."
The third grant will provide funds to extend Rantoul's existing bike path system by about 11/2 more miles, said Greg Hazel, the village's director of public works. It probably will be 18 to 24 months before construction begins, he said.
The existing path along the old Fisher Farmer Railroad line run east-west through the village. The extension will expand the path west to Rudzinski Park and also south into the downtown area, said Hazel.
"We envision a couple more phases to this," he said. "We'd like to interconnect as much of the community as we can."