'Missing link' Ely to Solon bike trail gets federal funding

Phase two of three to complete connection from Iowa City to Cedar Falls

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A long bemoaned gap dubbed the “missing link” in a bike trail network that some day will connect Iowa City to Cedar Falls will shrink, thanks to a federal grant awarded last week.

The Iowa Transportation Commission awarded $450,000 to the Johnson County Conservation Board to help complete phase two of a six-mile void between Solon and Ely, where the Hoover Trail ends, as part of $1.3 million in federal recreational trail grants awarded during a monthly meeting with the Iowa Department of Transportation on Tuesday.

The connector will link “more than 200 miles of trails in Eastern Iowa, including four of Iowa’s largest communities and 10 urban trail systems in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Waterloo,” according to the grant application.

In other actions, the commission approved $4 million for 12 projects from Iowa’s Clean Air Attainment Program, including $142,240 to launch RideConnect Vanpool through the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, and $1 million for five statewide Transportation Alternatives, including $249,562 for Iowa’s Living Roadways Projects and Trails Visioning Programs.

The total cost of the 2.6 mile phase two project is estimated at $1.9 million, although possibly less depending on the cost of installing a bridge, said Brad Freidhof, conservation program manager. While the board has acquired all the land it needs, it still needs to secure more money to complete the project, he said.

They are seeking another grant of similar size, and would cover the remaining costs through proceeds from a 20-year conservation bond, he said.

The second phase will run from the trail system that ends in Ely south along an abandoned railroad corridor to the boundary of federal land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, Freidhof said. Phase one builds two miles of trail from Solon north to Polk Avenue.

Work on phase two would begin in late 2016 or early 2017 after phase one is complete, Freidhof said.

Phase three would connect phase one and two segments, but it is also more complex with additional water crossings, Freidhof said. The full six-mile “missing link” should be built by 2018, he said.

The board has been lucky thus far with recreational trail grants, having secured a state grant to complete the engineering and design work in October 2014, a state grant for phase one in October 2015, and this federal grant for phase two. The plan is to apply for another grant for the final phase, Freidhof said.

Other trail grants include:

- $56,036 for Trail Maintenance Equipment for Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park in Fort Dodge, through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Webster County Improvement Corp.

- $170,944 to connect the Raccoon River Valley Trail to the High Trestle Trail Connector, city of Bouton to Quinlan Avenue through the Dallas County Conservation Board.

- $240,000 for snowmobile trail grooming equipment through the Iowa DNR and Iowa State Snowmobile Association.

- $24,000 to support bicycle/trails summits and program through Iowa DOT.

- $366,760 for the Wapsi-Great Western Line Recreational Trail from Acme to Riceville Section, through the Howard County Conservation Board.

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