By Charles Pekow
If you ride in Utah, Idaho, Montana or Wyoming, you can find some new trails and access in the next few years. The federal government has approved projects and a soon as next fall, some may be ready for riding.
Utah: West Davis Corridor
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and local officials have given their blessing to a revised West Davis Corridor (WDC) plan that will include new and improved bike trails and crossings along the highway between Centerville and West Point in Davis County, running from I-15 in Farmington to Antelope Drive.
While the governments have settled on a plan, they need to work out some details with contractors and citizens. UDOT has pledged to work with communities and the Davis County Active Transportation Committee about trail design. The plan calls for minimizing at-grade crossings so cyclists won’t have to wait for lights or get hit by vehicles when crossing streets but planners haven’t figured out the exact mix of tunnels and bridges.
The plan includes a new trail segment along the corridor between I-15 in Farmington connecting to the Legacy Parkway Trail (LPT) and going north to meet the southern end of the Old Emigration Trail in Jensen Park in Syracuse. The new trails will fit in a 25-foot wide right-of-way along the corridor. The trail will run east of the highway between I-15 and 950 North in Farmington, where it crosses to the west side. It adds about 12 miles, doubling the length of LPT.
The plan also calls for building a new crossing of I-15 on Park Lane in Farmington connecting LPT to the Oakridge Preserve Trail.
Meanwhile the Kays Creek Trail will connect the new WDC trail with the Kays Creek Subdivision. The Kays Creek Trail would connect to the WDC trail via an overpass near Weaver Lane in Layton.
But the Old Emigration Trail will be relocated between about 500 South and 2100 South in Syracuse. Its new alignment will lie along Bluff Road with a new overpass or underpass crossing Antelope Drive. A new grade-separated trail will also connect the trail to Fremont Park. The plan calls for adding a spur trail heading north on the west side of the highway to the Syracuse Arts Academy, where users will have to use a new crosswalk instead of an overpass or underpass, unlike elsewhere in the plan.
You can expect some disruptions during construction and it’s not clear exactly where cyclists will be rerouted. FHWA’s record of decision requires a “maintenance-of-traffic” plan to “minimize” impact on cyclists and others. The record acknowledges construction “could disrupt bicyclists or pedestrians using existing facilities. However, the impacts would be temporary because all crossings will be accommodated to maintain continuity and access after construction. During construction, UDOT will coordinate with the local municipalities and/or trail groups to post information regarding any temporary trail closures or detours.”
If all goes well, UDOT can start construction in 2020 and finish by 2022, says Project Manager Randy Jefferies. “Money is lined up. For Farmington to Syracuse, we have $610 million (for the highway). That’s the first phase,” he says. The communities and transportation officials have been designing the project since at least 2010.
“This is a great project for Davis County and gives us another regional arterial system on the west side of the county, a tremendous benefit to residents,” says Davis County Planning Manager Jeff Oyler.
“I think there are other solutions,” says Roger Borgenicht, cochair of Utahns for Better Transportation, who doesn’t object to the bicycle improvements. But he adds “I think they could do these things without building the road…(One day) people will wake up and see building more highways won’t help us. Congestion will grow to fill those roads.”
Anyone who doesn’t like the plan can file suit until March 5. But Borgenicht says he doesn’t plan to.
Idaho: Redfish Lake Trail to be Built
A nearly five-mile trail connecting Redfish Lake to the Stanley Trail should open next year in Custer County, ID. FHWA is seeking bids, expecting to spend between $1 million and $2 million for the project, tentatively scheduled for completion next fall. The trail will connect Pioneer Park in the City of Stanley to the footbridge at Forest Road No. 214 at the recreation complex at Redfish Lake in Sawtooth National Forest. Two-thirds of the trail will lie in the national forest and the northern third on an obtained easement.
The 2010 Census listed the population of Stanley at 63, down from 100 a decade earlier. But the Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce calls the city the “Trailhead to Idaho Adventure.” It says of biking “Stanley, Idaho has earned a reputation for its variety of epic back-country rides, large quantity of single track trails, and zero crowds. If you have not ridden in Stanley, you will.”
Montana: Bozeman to Bridger Mountains Trail
It should become easier to bike from Bozeman to the Bridger Mountains Trail in Gallatin National Forest in Montana a year from now. FHWA is planning to build a 2.2 mile bike trail along Montana Hwy. 86 (Bridger Canyon Road). FHWA plans to spend between $3 million and $5 million on the trail, which will start at Story Mill Road and run to the Drinking Horse Mountain trailheads. Cyclists will be able to use their own path to get between parking lots and trailheads. Now they have to ride the roads.
FHWA, USFS and the City of Bozeman started looking into the idea in 2014 because trailhead parking lots can’t handle demand and overflow parking crowds the roads. The contractor will build as part of the trail an underpass near the Fish Technology Center and a bridge over Bridger Creek.
Also in Montana, the United States Forest Service (USFS) is planning to clean up some of the overgrown trails in Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. USFS hired three contractors for brushing work on parts of 10 trails over the next year. The schedule of work will depend on when no snow covers the trails.
Mountain bikers use some of the trials, including Windy Bill, Windy Creek and Cache Creek. The contracts call for brushing the trails eight feet wide and 10 feet high (to accommodate equestrians). The work won’t include any repair to the trails, except drainage, says Trail Technician Tim Weber.
Wyoming: A Roundabout Way to Get to Grand Teton
Grand Teton National Park will be easier, more pleasant and safer to ride to a year from now. FHWA is planning to build a roundabout at Gros Ventre Junction with a bike path by next fall in Teton County, WY, about five miles north of Jackson. FHWA has budgeted between $3 million and $5 million for the project. Construction is slated to start this spring.
“We are trying to increase safety…in that busy intersection,” FHWA Project Manager Kevin Gray explains. The aim is to slow traffic in all directions, he says. The roundabout will replace stop signs and should make it safer for cyclists, he says, with improved visibility and islands for them.
The project also includes installing a bikepath along Hwy 89 to connect to the path along Spring Gulch Road. As a subsequent step, FHWA plans to connect the bikepath to an existing one leading to Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club.
On a good summer day, hundreds of bicyclists cross the junction to get to the park, Gray says.
FHWA hopes to have a contractor start construction in April and finish by October 2018. In the meantime, the plan calls for building temporary bikeways along both sides of Highway 89.