Temporary Cedar Rapids bike route opens in Czech Village

Cedar River Trail detour could be in place for years

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cyclists returning to the roads and trails with warm weather settling in will find a new detour on one of the area’s most heavily used routes for two-wheelers.

A dirt berm left over from the September 2016 flood covers the Cedar River Trail through Czech Village in Cedar Rapids and utility work along A Street SW also complicates travel. A temporary bike trail has been constructed and now zigzags through the area.

“It’s better than using the road, especially with kids,” said Julie Mittelstadt, a Cedar Rapids resident who went on a 10-mile ride on Monday afternoon with her husband, Chad, and 5-year-old daughter, Ella. “But it is dusty.”

The temporary trail opened earlier this month between 16th and 22nd avenues SW, cutting through Sokol Park and then alternating from the north to south side of A Street SW, before rejoining the Cedar River Trail near the access to the Solid Waste Agency site. Part of the trail is lined with crushed asphalt while other parts make use of existing sidewalks.

The Cedar River Trail is about 13 miles long, connecting through downtown Cedar Rapids north past Cedar Lake to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, which extends to Waterloo, and south to the Hoover Trail into Ely.

Most cyclists on Monday afternoon opted to use the road instead of the trail. Some said they didn’t notice the detour, while others said they preferred to ride on a hard surface, but were glad to know the temporary trail is available.

“I think it’s a good idea that it’s here,” said Bill Lefebure, 49, of Benton County, who travels to Cedar Rapids so he can use the trails. He said he has been averse to biking on the roads ever since a vehicle collision.

Bikers were requesting a solution for the blocked bike trail as early as February when Eastern Iowa experienced a warm spell.

“We wanted to get it up as soon as possible, but we were just hindered by a few things,” said Justin Holland, construction manager for the Cedar Rapids public works department.

City officials worked with Marion-based Rathje Construction Co., which is doing the utility work in the area, on the temporary trail, and waited until the construction schedule allowed the current design.

Waiting allowed officials to minimize the number of times the trail crossed A Street or would need to be realigned in the future, Holland said. Officials considered putting the temporary trail on top of the berm, but realized users could come too close to overhead power lines and the slope down to the river is too great, Holland said.

The relocation of underground utilities and installation of a culvert in Czech Village necessitated the temporary closure of A Street and parts of the trail, prompting city officials to construct the temporary accommodations. The utility and culvert projects are preliminary steps to the construction of a Czech Village levee in 2018 or 2019.

“Crews designed and constructed this temporary trail to help ensure the community has safe access to a bike facility as flood protection work continues,” said Emily Muhlbach, a spokeswoman for the public works department.

The temporary trail cost $30,000, Holland said, noting signs and street markings are planned to help with trail directions. The trail is likely to be in place until the new flood levee is built, Holland said. The new flood levee is expected to incorporate the bike trail, according to designs.

City officials are in the process of hiring a contractor to remove the dirt berm covering the Cedar River Trail, The dirt should be gone by early July, but Holland said officials anticipate when the berm is removed the trail is likely to be in too poor of a condition to be used.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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