For years, Janesville and Milton residents have requested the Ice Age Trail segments between the two cities be connected.
The Janesville City Council on Monday took a step toward that goal by authorizing the city to request Wisconsin Department of Transportation grants for two trail projects.
The first trail the grants would fund is the Glacial River Trail on the city’s north side.
There’s a 1-mile gap in the Ice Age Trail between the Highway 26 overpass near BMO Harris Bank and Janesville Animal Medical Center to the northeast. Connecting the trails would allow pedestrians to more easily and safely travel between the two cities and beyond.
Pedestrians have to use John Paul and Wright roads to bridge the gap between the Ice Age Trail segments. John Paul Road has limited shoulder space and fast-moving traffic, which can endanger pedestrians, associate planner Terry Nolan said.
Creating a pedestrian trail in the area is a priority because “we see people riding and traveling along that corridor already,” Nolan said.
To make things safer for pedestrians, the city plans to pave a ¾-mile trail known as the Glacial River Trail on the other side of the ditch parallel to John Paul Road. That would take pedestrians from Janesville halfway to Wright Road before they would again have to use John Paul Road to connect to the Ice Age Trail leading to Milton, Nolan said.
“It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.
A paved trail can’t fit within the existing right-of-way past McCormick Drive, which intersects John Paul Road, but the city plans to complete the remainder of the trail as part of a later project, she said.
“We can fill part of the gap now, and as that area (north of McCormick Drive) develops, we can get easements and get the right-of-way that’s needed to fill the rest of the gap,” Nolan said.
Rock Trail Coalition President and frequent trail user Dean Paynter is excited to see the project in the works.
“It’s actually a safety issue,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that would like to see that done.”
The proposed trail work would cost $900,500, of which $180,000 would come from the city if the grant is awarded, according to a memo to the Janesville City Council.
The city also will request a grant for the Fischer Creek Trail on Janesville’s west side.
The city plans to pave a path through the greenbelt with hopes to eventually connect the Robert O. Cook Memorial Arboretum with Rockport Park to the south.
The trail portion the grant would fund would go between West Court Street and Dartmouth Drive and include pedestrian-activated flashing lights at two intersections, Nolan said. It also would make it easier and safer for students to walk or bike to Parker High School, Paynter said.
The city hopes to make a trail for a side of Janesville that doesn’t have many, Nolan said.
“The west side doesn’t have a lot of trails aside from the Ice Age Trail along the river on the west side of the downtown,” Nolan said.
The portion of the Fischer Creek Trail project would cost an estimated $410,000, of which $82,000 would be locally funded should Janesville receive the grant, according to the memo.
Trail work wouldn’t begin until 2021 at the earliest. The proposed projects are part of the city’s long-range transportation plan, which is updated every decade, Nolan said.