PlyWood Trail saga continues
HINTON — The decision by PlyWood Trail committee members to locate the bicycle trail along Highway 75 still leaves many questions to be answered.
At a meeting Wednesday evening in Hinton, Ryan Meyer, member of the PlyWood Trail executive committee, and Jeff Schug with McClure Engineering, announced the trail route the committee is moving forward with.
Meyer said since three October meetings, the committee explored the feasibility, cost and timing for three potential routes: The River Route; the Highway 75 Route and the County Roads route.
“The primary reasons for eliminating other two routes were landowner feedback, feasibility and cost,” Meyer said.
At the present time, Schlotfeldt Engineering is conducting a topographic survey of the potential route.
“There is a lot left to do in route finalization,” Meyer said.
In the next six months, Meyer said the group will engage the Iowa DOT in conversations concerning right-of-way (ROW) in that area and begin application processes for both public and private funds.
He expects a marketing campaign to start in late spring or summer.
“The securing of public funds starts a little earlier, grants at the state and federal level,” Meyer said.
Members of the audience were quick with questions about the project.
Danny Pick asked how the phases of the trail would work with the planned work on Highway 75 in the next several years.
“We haven’t had those detailed discussions with IDOT yet. That’s our next step,” Schug answered. “We have to sit down with the DOT, determine where within their ROW we can go and what phases they would allow us to proceed with, timing with their construction.”
Linda Yagel asked if with the Highway 75 route the committee would still need to get permission from landowners. “Won’t that go on landowners property?” she asked.
Schug said no, the trail would be in the right-of-way.
Several people attending expressed their concern about not being notified about Wednesday’s meeting.
One asked why no letters were sent, as they had all written their contact information for the committee.
Meyer said they let both the Sioux City Journal and Le Mars Daily Sentinel know.
“I don’t get the Journal. There was nothing on the PlyWood Trails website or Facebook site,” one woman said.
Meyer said he would work to get that information available.
“We’re an all volunteer army of about four,” Meyer said.
“We need better communication,” Pick said.
Schug said the meetings are not a requirement of public projects.
“We have worked and attempted to go above and beyond in communication,” Schug said. He added it is very unusual to have multiple meetings, on multiple nights in multiple jurisdictions.
With more questions about what side of the highway the route would go and other details, Schug said, “You expect us to be at a point we’re not at. We chose to communicate at Point Zero with you.”
“You don’t need the land easement?” one person asked.
“That’s what we anticipate. Again, we have to do the topographic survey. That will be completed by the end of March,” Schug said.
He again emphasized that no land can be condemned for the trail.
Schug said once they have a meeting with IDOT, there will be more details on the trail route.
“We will look at where we can put the trail and where we can’t, and then conservations with DOT at the same time they say where they will allow us to put it and where they won’t. We’re not at that level,” Schug said.
Several attending asked about safety and the closeness to the highway traffic.
Schug said he believed there was enough right-of-way for the trail to be safe.
Another person questioned using the abandoned railbed on the east side of the highway.
Schug said they had not had any conversations with railroad officials about the trail, and would not want to predict how they might answer.
One couple who enjoys bicyling in the country expressed their support for the bike trail.
“I would love to see the path. I don’t feel safe on some of these roads,” the woman said. Her husband added, “We are behind the trail. If it happens, fine.”
Another person said he was concerned about accessing his driveway when crossing the highway and watching for traffic. “Now I have to watch for bike riders too?” he said.
Schug replied there would be stop signs for the bicyclists at those accesses.
The question of landowner liability was brought up.
Both Meyer and Schug said the landowner is not liable under Code 461c. Liability on the trail would be on the state since it is on state ROW.
How the trail goes through the communities of Hinton and Merrill also still needs to be decided.
Hinton city council member Mike Koopmans was in attendance and said no route has been planned in Hinton because they do not know where the trail will come in.
A preliminary cost for the Plymouth County portion of the proposed trail, a 12 mile stretch, is estimated at $11.9 million.
In a follow up phone interview with the Sentinel, Schug said, he believes Sioux City is covering the cost of their four miles of the trail.
Schug said he used Google Earth to assist him in planning some of the cost estimates.
He noted there are 16 minor crossings, from short to 50 feet that could be constructed by box culverts.
There is also one major water crossing where a bridge approximately 100-150 feet, would be needed. That cost is estimated at $300,000.
Schug and the committee expect to have public sources of dollars cover 50 to 60 percent of the cost, with the remaining from private donations.
Private donations are also expected to fund a maintenance endowment. That money will be allocated on a per mile basis to participating communities to help with the three-season trail use maintenance.
“No tax dollars will cover maintenance,” Meyer said.
He also said he understands the trail will be a linear park, with Le Mars and Sioux City being responsible for maintenance of the remainder of the trail, also with endowment dollars.
Schug estimates design could begin in 2019 with construction starting in 2020.
“It will be a three to four year process from end to end,” he said.