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Bicycles hijack capital improvements list

Council work session focuses on connecting Main Street with trail
City Engineer Dave Schechinger explains how a proposed extension of the Solon Recreation and Nature Area trail will reach Randall Park during a Sept. 4 city council meeting.

SOLON– Getting bicyclists safely downtown quickly jumped to the top of the list.
The Solon City Council revisited its capital improvement program (CIP) at a Sept. 4 meeting, and extending the Hoover Trail from its head at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA) to Main Street dominated the conversation.
The CIP is a list of ranked projects, with estimated costs and projected scheduling used to help plan for short- and long-term municipal upgrades.
“We’ve done really well at knocking that list out, but it’s time to probably revisit that so that Cami has an idea of what the council’s vision is in the five and 10-year plan,” Mayor Steve Stange explained.
City Administrator Cami Rasmussen directed council members to the latest CIP, adopted in 2017. Although reviewed annually, the document typically includes up to 25 projects, is formally revised every five years and will be up for consideration in 2020, she said.
Council members were expected to spend most of the scheduled work session brainstorming ideas to be added to the list so Rasmussen and Public Works Director Scott Kleppe could begin crunching numbers.
But that went sideways when Stange interjected with a question that took over the session.
“Where are we at with the bicycle trail from the trailhead to Main Street?” asked Stange. “What do we need to do yet?”
“The biggest thing is trying to get across (Highway) 382,” Kleppe said.

At an Aug. 7 meeting, council members approved a Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grant application for up to $75,000 to link the SRNA with Main Street adjacent to Racine Avenue.
Rasmussen explained at that meeting the city was eligible for up to $75,000 and staff had determined improving connections citywide and with the Hoover Trail was the best fit for the grant.
Included in the grant would be funding for downcast lightning for portions of the SRNA trail, as well as benches and wayfinding signage for the business district and other local destinations, she said.
Most importantly would be an 8-foot wide connection from the Hoover trailhead to Main Street, partially using the SRNA trail to link up with Randall Park.
City Engineer Dave Schechinger explained the trail would piggyback off the SRNA because of the narrow shoulders and big ditches along Racine Avenue.
The trail would split off from the SRNA on its northeast end and join Racine to Main Street, where an at-grade crossing would be created to access Randall Park.
The total project would cost an estimated $150,000.
The city’s portion could come from Local Option Sales Tax funds, Rasmussen added.

The concept was well received when preliminarily presented to REAP officials, Rasmussen said at the Sept. 4 session.
“So we have trail getting to 382, right?” Stange said.
“We don’t yet,” Kleppe responded.
“Okay, so do we have money budgeted for that?” continued Stange.
“No, but we know what it’s going to cost,” Rasmussen said.
“Then we get across 382, are we looking to widen the sidewalk all the way up to West Street?” Stange asked.
Schechinger said plans for the next stage had not yet been developed.
Stange suggested the existing sidewalk running along the north side of Main Street could be expanded to 8 feet to the library, with the trail possibly moving to the street the rest of the way to downtown.
“We have the potential for that to be really busy,” he said. “It’s going to be here next spring. It’s going to be really busy.”
Most of the Hoover Trail between Solon and Ely will be completed yet this year, with only an underpass in between preventing through traffic. The underpass is scheduled for construction in 2020.
Rasmussen asked whether bicyclists would use the dedicated trail or simply ride on the street.
“I do a lot of bike riding,” council member Mark Prentice noted. “Steve’s right, it’s going to be busy.”
Prentice said he rides the Hoover trail frequently.
“If I go through Cedar Rapids, I will stay on the trail if I know where the trail is,” he said. “But that’s not everybody.”
Three-fourths of the riders will follow the trail as it’s marked, he added.
Stange noted Ely has a lot of families running the trail and he expressed concern about the safety of trail users on Main Street.
Kleppe agreed the trail link was important.
“We want that traffic to go to our downtown,” he said. “We want those bicyclists that are coming into this community to get to our downtown.”
Rasmussen noted many options for a route downtown had been considered, including the use of Sovers Street.
If the trail were to merge with Main Street at the library, the city would lose parking stalls heading up to West Street, she noted. She also questioned whether the city could squeeze 6 or 8 feet out of the roadway.
In addition, Kleppe noted, the city hopes to connect bicyclists with Sutliff Road from Main Street but still lacks a designated route. When the city reconstructs Stinocher Street, he said, a trail will be added to extend the system to the south side of town.
Council member Lynn Morris indicated support for clear markings and signs, using Ely as an example.
“Ely does a great job,” she said.
“It’s going to be happening sooner than later, and if we don’t address it we’re going to have problems,” Stange concluded.
“I know that this is sucking up your time,” he added.
“It’s exactly what we need,” Kleppe responded.
Stange also suggested separating the CIP list into needs and wants, with separate
sections for infrastructure, facilities and wish list items.
He asked for the council to receive recommendations from city staff regarding the need for street, water, sewer and other infrastructure projects, as well as possible funding sources.
“As we’re trying to make a decision on what street project’s more important, I think there needs to be a presentation from you all on that, so that we can make that informed decision and then you can start planning for it funding-wise,” he explained.