Government

Work begins to fill Solon-to-Ely gap in trail network

Newstrack: Construction on three phases expected to take two years

Part of a bike trail bed is graded Wednesday as construction continues on part of a 6-mile section that will link Ely and Solon. Once construction on the three phases of filling in the missing link is complete, the new section will connect “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 a grant application for federal funding. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Part of a bike trail bed is graded Wednesday as construction continues on part of a 6-mile section that will link Ely and Solon. Once construction on the three phases of filling in the missing link is complete, the new section will connect “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 a grant application for federal funding. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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BACKGROUND

SOLON — A network of trails in Eastern Iowa always lacked a link that would connect Solon and Ely and, as a result, tie together more than 200 miles of trails from the area’s major cities of Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls and Waterloo.

The missing link connection got a boost in January 2016 when the Johnson County Conservation Board received a federal grant of $450,000 through the Iowa Transportation Commission to complete the 2.6-mile second phase of the effort to fill a 6-mile gap between the two small towns.

Phase one includes 2 miles of trail north from Solon to Polk Avenue, while phase two runs from where the trail system in Linn County ends at Seven Sisters Road south to Ely Road. The third phase fills in the gap between the two.

WHAT’S HAPPENED SINCE

Construction began this month on phases one and two, with clearing and grubbing completed.

The contractor, Peterson Contractors of Reinbeck, is first working to remove old bridge pilings and construct three new bridges over creeks.

“We’re all about connectivity and we’re excited about being able to allow people to ride freely between Cedar Rapids and Johnson County. We think there’s a lot of entertainment and recreational value in that,” said Brad Freidhof, conservation program manager for Johnson County.

Freidhof said the third phase should go fairly quickly next year because the first two phases include all the large amenities, like rest areas and bridges.

The third phase won’t be built until after an Ely Road improvement project is completed.

“By knocking these two out, we’re hopeful that last phase will be a pretty quick turn around,” Freidhof said, adding that if weather permits, riders could be on the trail by the end of 2019.

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The contract is $2.5 million for the first two phases. Freidhof said the county has received both federal and state grants for the work, with Johnson County Conservation bond money compensating for the rest.

“There’s been a lot of excitement, especially in the communities right along the trail ...,” Freidhof said. “I’m really excited. I think that’s going to bring development to those communities, create a lot of opportunities for recreational and special events along that trail.”

Anne Duggan, president of Think Bicycles of Johnson County, said her organization supported one of the county’s grant applications for the project. She said the trail could attract riders to the Iowa City area as well, and give area riders access to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail and even provide a possible way to commute between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

“It took a while,” Duggan said. “But it’s great to finally connect it.’

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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