The city now has firmer plans and conceptual pictures of the roughly $1.2 million link between one of Lincoln's busiest bike trails and one of its longest.
Construction of the 350-foot connection between the Rock Island Trail and the Jamaica North Trail could begin next year. The city and Olsson Associates will provide an update on that and other trail projects at the Great Plains Trails Network annual meeting later this month.
The long bridge with the long name — Rock Island to Jamaica Connector — would span the twin tracks of the BNSF Railway near Densmore Park and eliminate the unofficial and illegal path now used by hikers and bikers between the trails.
The city had been weighing two options: a bridge crossing the tracks at a 90-degree angle and requiring ramps to get users down to the Jamaica Trail; or a bridge crossing diagonally and connecting with the old Rock Island trestle on the other side.
It chose to tie into the so-called Train Wreck Bridge. Engineers studied the bridge and its abutments and determined they're sound, said Sara Hartzell, a Parks and Recreation Department planner. Contractors will renovate the bridge and build a dirt ramp to deliver hikers and bikers down to the Jamaica North Trail.
The Rock Island Trail begins near Antelope Park and runs southwest, toward the Cooper YMCA. The eight-mile Jamaica North Trail begins at the south edge of downtown and ends near Saltillo Road, where it turns into the Homestead Trail and stretches to Kansas.
But the Jamaica North is difficult to access from other trails south of Van Dorn Street. At Old Cheney, cyclists must ride a busy street with a narrow railroad crossing. The next access is nearly three miles to the south, along a shoulder-less 14th Street.
For years, trail users have cut across the tracks near Densmore Park, risking train traffic and trespassing tickets.
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The city still needs the railroad’s permission, Hartzell said, but BNSF has indicated early support.
“They’ve been aware of the trespass issue in that area and would like to see that stopped,” she said.
The Railroad Transportation Safety District has already given $200,000, which went to Olsson Associates for the design engineering, and is expected to contribute $400,000 more, she said. The city plans to designate $250,000 for the project in its proposed budget, and the Great Plains Trails Network will raise the rest.
Construction could begin in September 2019 and take eight or nine months, if the weather cooperates. And the bridge will likely have a snappier name by the time it opens, Hartzell said.
At the Great Plains Trails Network meeting, Hartzell will update other trail projects, including:
* Engineering work has started on the Murdock Trail paving project from Touzalin Avenue to North 70th Street, which will replace the crushed limestone surface with a 10-foot-wide ribbon of concrete, and a 4-foot-wide parallel path of limestone for runners. The Trails Network and the Lincoln Track Club, with matching dollars from the Jayne Snyder Memorial Fund, will pay for nearly 75 percent of the $600,000 cost. Construction is scheduled for this fall.
* Workers could begin replacing a bridge at the south edge of Wilderness Park in 2019 — nearly a decade after it collapsed into Salt Creek. The city intends to complete environmental and engineering work this year and apply for a Recreational Trails Program grant to finish paying for the $429,000 project.
* And the city’s Planning Department is launching an on-street bicycle facilities plan, which will examine Lincoln’s trails system, bike routes and lanes and traffic patterns, and recommend improvements — which could include more bike lanes, shared lanes and trail additions. That plan could be completed by October.
The meeting is March 24 at 1 p.m. at the Cornhusker Bank Community Room, 8310 O St. The public is welcome.