City plans to add bike paths to DeKalb


Mike Morocco, senior time arts major, takes the eco park bike pah as a shortcut back to his apartment in September 2011.

By Ali Combs

The city of DeKalb is making plans for a nearly $1 million bike path.

The path will be funded mostly by a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) through a bike trail enhancement grant. The grant will be used to build a bike path that will serve as a trail link from the NIU lagoon to Prairie Park. The project’s total cost is expected to be $997,600. The IDOT grant will pay for the majority of the project, said city manager Mark Biernacki.

“The path will be about 75 percent federally funded so local funds will be about $230,000, which we will use motor fuel tax funds for and seek other grants like from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources,” Biernacki said in an email.

City engineer Joel Maurer said the actual construction of the about 2,500-foot bike path will cost about $730,000.

Third ward alderman Kristen Lash said she thinks the bike paths are a good use of funding because of the benefits they offer citizens.

“I used to work in a daycare, and we’d take the daycare kids around town, and it was nice to use paths for that,” Lash said. “Bike paths are often more direct and often safer ways to get from point A to point B.”

Biernacki said the bike path will improve safety and recreation in DeKalb.

“The benefits of the path linkage will be for bikes or pedestrian users not having to cross or enter onto any streets,” Biernacki said in an email. “It will be a very scenic route along the river under both the Lincoln Highway bridge and the railroad trestle and will definitely be a great recreational amenity.”

This bike path is expected to be completed in 2015, Maurer said.

“It was designed with a lot of challenging features to it,” Maurer said. “It’ll be in 2015; about two years form now we’ll start construction.”

The city must consult and collaborate with several other governing and corporate bodies in the process of creating the path.

“We have considerable federally required environmental studies and design challenges working in the floodplain and coordinating with agencies such as the Union Pacific Railroad, the Corps of Engineers, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, NIU, DeKalb Park District, IDOT and land owners along the route, which all takes time,” Biernacki said in an email.

The city is also looking to install a bike path along Bethany Road as part of the road’s expansion this summer. That path, which will connect First Street to Fairway Oaks Drive along Bethany Road, will be about 2000 feet in length. The cost of this path is included in the cost of the Bethany Road widening, Maurer said.

Lash said she thinks the bike path expansion will be an asset to the city in coming years.

“These will benefit people who are trying to get away from their cars for environmental or health reasons,” Lash said. “They’re better environmentally; they’re better for health. There are just a lot of benefits to them.”