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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

More on MetroLink Bike Trail

After attending the public meeting Tuesday night about the extension of the MetroLink Bike Trail between the Belleville MetroLink station and the Memorial station, I'm persuaded that the $9 million project will be an asset for the communities of Belleville and Swansea.

Frankly, I was concerned about the project because of some serious design flaws on the existing MetroLink Trail between the Belleville station and Southwestern Illinois College and the Richland Creek Bikeway between the Belleville station and Third Street in Belleville. Those flaws include the lack of a safe way to cross Green Mount Road, excessively sharp turns in North End Park in Belleville and the use of square-off curbs on Second Street in Belleville.

The plans that I saw showed me that Thoovenot, Wade & Moerchen Inc., the engineering firm designing the project, had done its homework. Included in the project is an overpass at Illinois 159 (Illinois Street) , a busy four-lane highway. The trail also will go under existing overpasses at Illinois 161 and Sullivan Drive in Swansea and Frank Scott Parkway West in Belleville.

Trail users would be forced to cross Fullerton Road and Old Caseyville Road in Swansea. Fullerton can be busy at times, although not as bad as Green Mount Road, but there are some long stretches on the trail without stop signs, and that's a good thing for cyclists!

For the most part, the St. Clair County Transit District already owns the land because its part of the existing MetroLink right-of-way. Some land will need to be purchased at Illinois 159 to build the overpass.

In today's story about the meeting in the Belleville News-Democrat, some people expressed concerns about crime. "We love the bike path, but we're worried about what type of people can come through here," said Clarence Schaefer, 84.

Mike Barton, manager of Dutch Hollow Village, told the News-Democrat he doesn't want people trespassing through village property and has asked project managers to consider placing the path on the other side of the MetroLink tracks.

"Instead of crossing at Memorial station, it can cross at the Swansea station," Barton said. "You can see how close the homes are on this side compared to the other side."

I would recommend that people who have concerns about crime or property values check out some the resources available, including a fact sheet from Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (PDF) and the Web site for the Freinds of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. Closer to home, many developers in the Edwardsville area have found that being near one of the Madison County Transit trails can be a major asset and have sought to make sure people in their subdivsions have easy assess to the trails.

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