As anyone who drives in Lincoln knows, it is road construction season, which means detours everywhere you turn. Alas, runners may discover the same thing in the next few months when they go out to run on their favorite trail. But in my view not all detours are created equal. We have:
The good: The Billy Wolff Trail through Holmes Park east of the dam is in terrible shape both along Normal Boulevard and 70th Street. The city will begin replacing panels sometime after the Trail Trek event on June 25. Runners will welcome not having to worry about tripping on cracked pavement and the detour will be fairly easy. Either detour around on the grass or cut down through the park.
The bad: It seems like only yesterday that I attended the ribbon cutting for the extension of the Salt Creek Levee Trail from its old northern terminus at Haymarket Park by the old Charleston Street Bridge north and east over to 14th Street where it connected the Antelope Valley/Billy Wolff Trail and Nebraska Innovation Campus (the former fairgrounds). Even in the few months it has been open it seems to have caught on with runners who found it made for a nice loop from downtown or the UNL city campus. Bikers seem to enjoy a nonstop loop from the east side of campus to the Arena/Haymarket. But this trail will be closed for over a year while the 10th Street Bridge over Salt Creek just west of the Indian Center is torn down and replaced. The bridge rebuild is certainly needed, but it is too bad things can’t be coordinated.
The ugly: As runners undoubtedly remember, the Rock Island Trail was closed for many months while the Penny Bridges on Sheridan Boulevard were torn down and replaced. One of the goals of the project was to solve the drainage issues under Sheridan. This was especially treacherous in winter when black ice would sometimes catch runners unawares. Unfortunately, the project not only failed but drainage has actually gotten worse. Even a modest rain can lead to stagnant pools of water mostly on the south side of the bridges. Compounding the problem, the contractor used the wrong finish on the concrete under the bridges. Expect a messy delay later in the summer as work will be done to fix these two problems. This will involve putting in drainage pipes on both sides of the trail, tearing up the surface to put pipes under it in several places, and completely replacing the concrete under the bridges. So we have another detour to fix problems leftover from the original project—rather annoying.
One bright note: the detour will probably require runners to run up from the trail to 33rd Street and Sheridan, but they will find this easier than before. When the Pioneer Woman statue was refurbished, the city replaced the decrepit asphalt trail as part of the project. The new, smooth concrete trail is ADA-compatible grade so getting up from the Rock Island to Sheridan to cross over will be less onerous.
Changes Coming to the MoPac East
Trails in our area generally are either city trails—paved and maintained by Lincoln Parks and Recreation—or county trails—limestone and maintained by the Natural Resources District. As Lincoln grows and incorporates new areas into the urban landscape, the status of trails may change. City officials and NRD leaders recently met and developed a Memorandum of Understanding about this process. The MoPac Trail is likely the first to be impacted. The city trail runs from downtown to the 84th Street trailhead; east from there to Wabash it is a limestone trail. However, the city is in the final planning process to extend the sanitary sewer line from O Street at 120th south to Walton and back west on A Street and is slated to be complete in 2018. When this is done, developers will began building housing projects in this area; indeed, several have already expressed interest. The city has also completed purchase of the right-of-way to transform 98th Street, currently an incomplete, mostly unpaved country road, into a major arterial from Holdrege Street south to Highway 2. Traffic volume will be similar to 70th and 84th Streets. As this area transitions to urban, the section of the MoPac from 84th to 98th Street is likely to be paved and turned over to city maintenance. Lincoln’s housing market is hot right now, so this may occur sooner than you might think. If you like country running on unpaved trails, you will still have the option—just think Walton.
MoPac Repairs at 48th Street Bridge
Runners using the Mopac Bridge over North 48th Street will have noticed some new planks painted yellow on the bridge, which some thought were speed bumps. These are a temporary patch because some of the original wood had deteriorated. Replacement should begin soon and in fact by be done by the time you read this. The work will require land closures on busy North 48th Street, two lanes at a time but only for two days each. Local media incorrectly reported a much longer timeframe.
Connecting the Rock Island Trail to Jamaica North
Lincoln’s popular Rock Island Trail was built on the surface of the abandoned Rock Island Railway line. The trail terminates on the southern end when it turns into Densmore Park, but the railway line continued southwest. A now-demolished bridge carried the trains over the very active railway line below and a second now-abandoned rail line. The latter became the Jamaica North Trail. Although it is risky and illegal to do so, a large number of runners, hikers, and bikers dart across from Densmore to the Jamaica North Trail and Wilderness Park. This has created enough worries about safety that the Railway Transportation Safety District and Lincoln City Parks and Recreation have endorsed a proposal to build a pedestrian/bike bridge connecting the Rock Island Trail and Jamaica North, a plan long promoted by the Great Plains Trails Network. Many details have to be worked out, including the design and funding. The cost will be over $1 million and construction would likely not be done until 2019 or 2020.
When completed this will be a great boon to runners and bikers in southwest Lincoln who will have much greater access to Jamaica North. If you are not familiar with this trail, its northern end is at J and Fourth Streets on the southern edge of the Haymarket. It extends south to the county line where it becomes the Homestead Trail and continues to Beatrice. At that point it is the newly completed Standing Bear Trail, which continues to the Kansas border and on to Marysville. There is currently an eight-block gap in Beatrice between Homestead and Standing Bear where you have to run or bike on city streets. Jamaica North has a very different feel to it in the Wilderness Park area—a limestone surface and a lot of wildlife. It will provide a change of scenery for those long runs!
There is even the possibility of continuing the Rock Island Trail through Wilderness Park and beyond once the connecting bridge is complete. This would go under Highway 77 and serve housing projects likely to be built in the future.
Cavett School to Yankee Hill Road
The trail project to basically extend the Tierra Williamsburg Trail from San Mateo Drive around Cavett School and south to Yankee Hill Road is finally underway. The current project will take the trail down to the north side of Yankee Hill Road. A later phase will carry the trail under Yankee Hill through an existing culvert and will be built in conjunction with a new park on the south side of Yankee Hill. The work around Cavett School is slated to be finished by August 5 when school teachers return.
See you on the trails!