Saturday, July 17, 2010
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Local bike trail planning pedaling forward

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[July 17, 2010]  The Logan County Board's legislative chairwoman, Jan Schumacher, asked a local bicycle enthusiast and trail planner to address the board. Schumacher is working on a grant application for a bike trail.

Bicycling enthusiast Dale Bassi explains bicycle routes and funding possibilities to the Logan County Board.

InsuranceDuring the Thursday evening board-of-whole meeting, Dale Bassi said he is part of a group that has been meeting a couple of years looking for ways to enhance bicycle riding in Logan County.

One of the bigger efforts that has been under way has been to create bike trail that would run from Chicago to St. Louis along Interstate 55, with the Logan County segment running through Atlanta, Lincoln and Elkhart.

There are many options, Bassi said. The current focus is on the segment from Elkhart to Lincoln and could fit the Rails-to-Trails program, in which abandoned rail lines are made into trails.

"This is a national interest program. I've probably ridden in at least 20 states with these trails. It's very popular," he said.

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The group recently met here with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The big challenge is crossing Salt Creek, which has two options, a bridge along the old Amtrak route that's east of Lincoln Parkway or follow old Route 4, just west of the highway, where there are old bridge abutments still standing.

Either way, the estimated costs of $1.7 million to $1.8 million are a bit staggering for the little guy, and that is why it is important to get local governments involved, Bassi said.

When a new bridge is put in to go over Salt Creek, it is hoped to have a bicycle lane.

A lot of the work can be done through grants. As an example, there's a 100 percent federally funded grant available through the state's Safe Routes to Schools program, which establishes bicycle trails to schools.

Bassi said his group has been working on a bike plan with trails in communities throughout Logan County. They are looking at options in Lincoln such as along Kickapoo Street, the new Fifth Street Road project and other locations.

Bassi said that he travels to ride several times a year and would be going to Michigan to ride around the lake next week.

"It's really nice to find somewhere that has an interconnected set of trails," he said.

He explained that it's really good for a community. In terms of economic development, when you have people come to ride your trails, they stay in your hotels or bed-and-breakfast establishments. It also promotes a healthy lifestyle, he said.

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The communities of Williamsville and Sherman have been working together the past year and a half to establish a trail along the old interurban railroad line, which is one option Logan County is also looking at.

The trail from Springfield to Chatham is a very nice trail, he said.

Logan County could bridge a gap that would attract distance riders.

"We're in a pretty good strategic position as far as bicyclists, because there is a good system in Springfield and a very good system in Bloomington," Bassi said.

"There's a lot of things in our favor. If we just get some things in process and try to take it one step at a time, I think eventually we'll have some success," he said. "There are a lot of people other than just us that hope we get this trail in."

Pat O'Neill commented that the most common complaint he has heard from families living out Fifth Street Road is that there is no place for kids to ride bikes or even walk.

Bassi immediately thought of a route that might be possible to get from the subdivision there to West Lincoln-Broadwell and might be able to get funding through the Safe Routes for Schools.

Schumacher said she would get back to the board later when more information on the grant she is working on is available.


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