Proposed bicycle trail awaits Senate approval

Transportation bill, already OK'd in House, provides $500K for 20-mile path along Kansas Highway 10

Eric Struckhoff lives just one mile from his job at Kansas University, but he wishes he lived 20 miles. It would be a good excuse to ride his bicycle more every day.

Struckhoff, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Board, is confident he’s not the only area resident craving a good bicycle ride. That’s why he’s excited that plans are rolling along to build a 20-mile hike and bike trail along Kansas Highway 10 between Noria Road east of Lawrence and the Cedar Creek Parkway exit near Kansas Highway 7.

“I’m telling you, it would be a jewel in terms of outdoor recreational facilities in Kansas,” Struckhoff said. “I would commute to work on it every single day if I could. I wish I lived 20 miles from work.”

The plan received a boost last week as U.S. House members approved a transportation bill that included $500,000 to start construction of the project. The bill is now awaiting approval in the Senate.

“When you combine Johnson and Douglas counties, there are a lot of people riding bikes,” Struckhoff said. “With a trail like this, there would be even more. I hear a lot of people say, ‘I would love to take my kids out, but I don’t want to take them out on the street.'”

Exact design details of the path haven’t been finalized. But Bill Maasen, planning and development manager for the Johnson County Park and Recreation District, said the path would be on the fringes of the existing K-10 right-of-way.

“It will be designed so it won’t do anything to slow down traffic on K-10,” said Maasen, who, along with officials from the Mid-America Regional Council, submitted the project for funding consideration to U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Overland Park.

The trail’s Johnson County ending point at Cedar Creek would make it easy for bicyclists to tap into other Johnson County trails, including the Kill Creek and Mill Creek trail systems, Maasen said. It also could allow users access to public transit systems in both counties.

Douglas County transportation planners support the idea. Bill Ahrens, a transportation planner with the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department, said he wanted to see more details but likes the general concept.

“There are quite a few avid bicyclists in both counties that will ride 30 or 50 miles in a weekend,” Ahrens said. “This would provide them a safer place to ride.”

Struckhoff said area bicyclists used to take old Kansas Highway 10. But about five years ago, De Soto city officials technically closed their portion of the road to bicycle traffic. Struckhoff said that means bicyclists who want to make the trip now often find themselves on busy city thoroughfares like 135th Street in Johnson County.

“Think of 23rd Street but the nth degree,” Struckhoff said. “It is not very fun.”

Maasen said the $500,000 in proposed funding would not be enough to build the entire path, but he said the funding was designed to build enough of the path to prove to federal and state officials that the concept would work. The entire project is estimated to cost $4 million to $5 million. A timeline for construction hasn’t been determined.

The path is the only Douglas County project in federal transportation funding that nationally provides $225 billion over a six year period. Kansas would receive $2.34 billion in funding to fix roads and bridges during the life of the program. The Senate is expected to debate the bill in April.