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Watch now: $1.2 million trail underpass opens in west Lincoln, replaces dark, dank tunnel

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Salt Creek Trail underpass

Salt Creek Trail users now have access to a new underpass to cross under rail lines in west Lincoln.

The newest 950 feet of paved trail in Lincoln started as an idea, and a grant application, nearly 15 years ago.

Why not run the Salt Creek Levee Trail directly under the BNSF Railway bridge, instead of its jog out to First and J streets and through a narrow concrete culvert prone to flooding and vandalism?

Trail underpass opens

But it wasn't that simple, said Ariana Kennedy, resources conservationist with the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District.

The district had to manage multiple agencies to make it happen. It worked with the state Department of Transportation, which was administering the federal highway grant. It secured right-of-way from the railroad, to build beneath its six sets of tracks between Rosa Parks Way and O Street. It obtained permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, because it was working on a levee.

Plans were drafted, reviewed, revised and reviewed again.

“It was paperwork and meetings,” Kennedy said. “It was a long process.”

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But it would be worth the work. The underpass would make the Salt Creek Levee Trail a seamless, 4 1/2-mile stretch from Van Dorn to Superior streets that hugs the creek and dips below a dozen bridges.

And it would eliminate the need to use the outdated sidewalk tunnel on First Street, which often fills with mud and debris and can feel dim, dank and claustrophobic.

“The width and height are nowhere near today’s standards,” said J.J. Yost, planning and construction manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which has tried to keep the tunnel clean.

It’s not clear if the parks department will continue to maintain it, he said. “We don’t really know what the future of that tunnel is; it’s not really part of the trail system, it’s part of the sidewalk system.”

But it will maintain the new, $1.2 million underpass. The federal grant is paying 80%, and the Railroad Transportation Safety District and the Great Plains Trails Network made up the balance, Kennedy said.

Salt Creek Trail underpass

Salt Creek Trail users now have access to a new underpass to cross under rail lines in west Lincoln.

The contractor hired by the natural resources district broke ground on the underpass in August 2021, and had planned to have it finished by November.

But there were delays, Kennedy said. “These kind of projects, you can be hopeful. But they always take longer than you expect.”

Still, the new underpass officially opened to bikers, walkers and runners Friday afternoon, six months later than expected and a decade and a half after Kennedy started working on it.

“I’m beyond excited,” she said. “It almost seems unreal to have it finished.”

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Lincoln trail project to eliminate 'uncomfortable' tunnel beneath the tracks

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter


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