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Kickapoo Trail Project Helps Promote Recreation in Multiple Communities

Almost 20 years ago, a group of conservation-minded citizens in central Illinois decided they wanted to connect two communities separated by 24.5 mileswith a multi-use pedestrian/bike trail. The Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation (CCDC), a foundation focused on conserving, restoring and enhancing Champaign County’s natural resources, saw an opportunity in the abandoned Conrail railway.  The organization spearheaded the long-time coming “Kickapoo Trail Project.”  This type of project is commonly referred to as a “rails-to-trails” project which takes an abandoned railway and converts it into a pedestrian and/or bike trail.

The CCDC began working on connecting the two communities of Urbana and Danville, Illinois by working with the company that owned the property. The railway was originally operated by Conrail and was recently purchased by CSX Transportation. Negotiations with CSX continued for a number of years before a price was agreed upon and grant funds were received from public sources. A $2.1 million grant from the State of Illinois was recently received by the Vermilion County Conservation District (VCCD) and will be used to move forward on the first phase of design in Vermilion County. Fehr Graham’s Champaign office is leading the design of the first phase. The entire project is expected to cost $10 million and be done in six-phases with a timeline dependent on additional funding.

Previous bike trail experience with the Champaign County Forest Preserve and key relationships with the CCDC provided the background for being chosen for the project. “It has been a long journey to get to the point where we can begin work on this project, but it has been well worth the wait.” said Ellen Hedrick, Project Manager with Fehr Graham’s Champaign Office. “It is very exciting to be a part of enhancing recreation in the area.” Hedrick was instrumental in providing the cost estimates and technical language, as well as final review, for the grant applications. Initial federal appropriation funding, provided through the combined efforts of Senator Dick Durbin and Representative Tim Johnson, allowed an IDOT Project Plan to be developed by Hedrick. The completed IDOT Plan opened doors for the different agencies to apply for grant funding on both the state and federal level that led to the eventual award to begin the first phase of the project.

The first design and construction phase of the project will be the most costly because it includes repurposing a 100-year-old trestle that spans the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River near Danville and Kickapoo State Park. This phase of the project will require the expertise of Fehr Graham to determine how to best use the existing structure to create a pedestrian/bike bridge across a span of almost a quarter mile. Keith Brandau, Fehr Graham’s structural lead along with Hedrick will meet with the various stakeholders to come up with a solution which takes into account both structural and aesthetic elements. The balance of the trail will be a 10-foot wide path made of fine aggregate limestone screenings. The path and bridge south and west of Kickapoo State Park will be purchased and maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources making the trail a three-agency partnership.

Fehr Graham’s multi-disciplined abilities will be highlighted with this rails-to-trails project. Fehr Graham has the ability to complete every aspect of the project from the funding design to the management of construction, including the unique structural elements of the overall engineering. Fehr Graham has 10 locations throughout the Midwest with the ability to meet the needs of most any project.

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