Approximately 40 people were in attendance at the Kroc Center for last night's public meeting on the status of the Keystone connector trail. City officials on hand included Parks & Rec Director Melinda Pearson, Parks Planner Dennis Beyers and City Council member Gary Gernandt. State Senator Heath Mello and officials from the NRD were also on hand, as were consultants from the Big Muddy Workshop. Several cyclists were spotted in the audience, however the majority of the crowd seemed to be from the neighborhood around D Street where the trail will be located.
Phase 1 of the trail, Karen Park to 45th/Dayton was put out to bid, and a bid (below budget!) has been accepted by the city. Work will begin on this portion soon.
The consultant spent a great deal of time discussing all of the options that were explored in determining the exact plan for Phase 2 of the trail.
The trail from 45th & Dayton will proceed under 42nd Street via land that will be purchased from Union Pacific. It will continue east from there along a section that will be built along the hillside, several feet above the railroad tracks, eventually winding around and crossing onto D Street at about 39th or so. The trail (more of a sidepath in this area) will continue along the south side of D Street until 36th Street, where it will utilize the existing 36th Street bridge (west side), cross at grade to the east side, and then proceed back down just south of the interstate until it winds under I-80 (near the silos) and eventually connects to the Field Club Trail.
In order to stay within the city's right of way and avoid taking property away from homeowners adjacent to D Street, the city will narrow the street from 35 feet to 30 feet, and then narrow the sidepath from 10 feet to 8 feet in this section. All of these changes are within appropriate guidelines.
And now for the FAQ section:
Q: Why can't the trail continue to 36th along the UP tracks, north of the businesses that are on the north side of D Street?
A: Union Pacific is unwilling to sell the land needed to site the trail there. The owners of the businesses on the north side of D are unwilling to sell land, as they would like to retain the option to have rail access to their property. Also, there is a very large cell tower behind the businesses that literally blocks where the trail could be sited, even if land was available.
Q: Why can't the trail continue along the north side of D Street (business side) instead of the south side of D Street (homeowner side)?
A: Several large utility poles (distribution lines, complicated) and telephone connection boxes would have to be relocated if the trail was sited on the north side. Even if this was done (very expensive and disruptive), there is not enough right of way to make the plan work on the north side, even with narrowing the street and the sidepath.
Q: What is going to happen to all of those mature trees on the south side of D Street if the trail is located there?
A: Nothing. There is plenty of room for the trail without disturbing the trees. There are a couple of utility poles on the south side to be relocated, but they are only guide wire support poles that will take only a couple of hours to be moved.
Q: Will the trail/sidepath be crossing at grade along the intersections on the D Street portion?
A: Yes, there will be 3 or 4 at-grade street crossings along this section. All of the north bound streets have stop signs where they intersect D. This will be similar to other sidepaths in the city that cross streets at grade.
Q: Are the homeowners along D Street still upset about this?
A: Yes and no. The homeowners stated several times that they are not against the trail, not against cyclists or pedestrians. The concern was the potential for having property taken away from them, the concern about the proximity of the trail to the windows in their homes. Mostly the concern was about their perceived lack of notice/information about this project. As with so many of the meetings we attend, the concern is about the process, not about the project, per sey.
Q: So, is this really going to happen? If so, when?
A: Yes. The funding is in place, and work can now begin to get the formal plans completed so that the project can be put out to bid. Construction could* begin in spring/summer 2012.
(* and we all know how these things go....hopefully all goes according to plan!)
Bottom line: the desperately needed east-west connection is coming, albeit slowly. We will continue to monitor the progress and certainly throw a giant East/West Celebration Party when it is finally done!!!