Late last year I posted that two new sections of the Kinnickinnic River Trail had opened. Unfortunately the street from downtown Milwaukee to these sections was in terrible shape, with potholes and numerous old railroad crossings. South Water Street has now been repaved so the route is now more comfortable, particularly for those concerned about their tires. Thus this route is a viable option for part of the Milwaukee-Chicago route.
I am attaching a photo of the bridge carrying the new trail over Chase Ave, taken when it was under construction.
Kinnickinnic River Trail: bridge over Chase Ave.
The section of the Kinnickinnic River Trail between Washington and Maple streets is now open. I have changed the description of the Milwaukee-Chicago route to move this section off of 2nd or 1st street to Water Street and the new trail.
The block of Water Street north of Washington is scheduled for rebuilding next year. Until that happens, it is a bit of an obstacle course with all the tracks crossing at various angles.
Ever since the Wisconsin Department of Transportation recommended against allowing bicycles on the Hoan Bridge, it has promised an alternate route between downtown and Bayview, using an abandoned railroad right of way. In fact for several years this proposed trail appeared on the Milwaukee county bike map as an existing trail.
Finally, construction on the trail has started. Once constructed it will run between Washington and Maple Streets and form an alternative to 1st or 2nd streets, as part of the route between Milwaukee and Chicago.
Downtown-Bayview connector map (pdf)
Over at Bikeverywhere, I have put a series of posts identifying missing links, the opportunities where a bit of improvement will either open up additional bike routes or make the existing ones a lot more pleasant. Three in particular are for routes discussed on this site:
- The Milwaukee-Racine county line stretch, traditionally the worst part of the Milwaukee-Chicago route.
- Port Washington Road connecting Bayside and Mequon, the most dangerous part of the Lake Drive route between Milwaukee and Door County.
- Hales Corners, the most challenging part of the Milwaukee-Elkhorn route.
For years the section between 6-Mile Road in Racine County and Ryan Rd in Milwaukee was a challenge for bicyclists traveling between Chicago and Milwaukee and using bike trails (see my description of this route). A 1976 guide to Wisconsin bike routes along the entire Lake Michigan shoreline describes this as “the MOST DANGEROUS STRETCH” of the whole route. The direct route follows highway 32 which can carry quite heavy traffic. Recently the highway and its shoulders have been repaved which improved things somewhat but not enough. Between 6 Mile and 7 Mile roads, in particular, the shoulders are uncomfortably narrow. Closing of the rail crossing of 7 Mile Road as part of the expansion of the WE Energies plant added a mile to the stretch on highway 32. One can avoid highway 32 by using roads to the west but at the cost of adding a mile or two to the route.
Trail construction over the last few years has raised hopes that this gap would finally be filled. Unfortunately the result so far fall short of the need. But, with the placement of bike route signs in Racine county, the route, such as it is, appears to be semi-official. I describe it here traveling north, which has the advantage of avoiding four crossings of highway 32.
At the end of the unpaved Racine county trail at 6 mile Road, follow the new bike route signs west on 6 Mile, north on highway 32, and then east on 7 Mile to its dead end. A new unpaved trail starts there and goes north to the county line (the surface on this section is too rough for my taste; perhaps it will improve with use). At the county line, a new paved–and very nice–trail continues north to Elm Rd. Continue east on Elm, picking up a trail that loops south and then east, crossing railroad tracks through a kind of stile, and then follows a WE Energies plant road north to Oakwood Rd. Go west on Oakwood, north on Highway 32, and finally east at Ryan Rd. From there one can follow city streets to the Oak Leaf Trail in Grant Park.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of some bike maps is their habit of showing trails planned for the future as if they were already built. I recall two times where I set out to follow a bike trail that the map showed as existing, only to find that my only choice was a road with heavy traffic and no shoulder. I recently ran into two examples of this, although neither is likely to place the bicyclist in danger.
Brookfield’s Greenway page lists three projects scheduled for 2011-12. The current version of its map shows all three as presently existing. Late last fall, after printing the map, I decided to try all three, only to discover they didn’t exist.
Not to be outdone, Milwaukee’s bike plan shows existing and planned trails. Two of the “existing” trails run south from downtown along former railroad rights of way, one from Washington to Maple and the other along the Kinnickinnic River south of Lincoln. With the unseasonably warm weather last weekend, I decided to check them out. No sign of either although I spotted some construction that may be an early sign of conversion of the latter.
Yesterday I rode the newly-paved trail from the southern edge of Kenosha to the state line. It was a big improvement. The countryside is mostly woods with some housing developments and a very few cornfields.
I continued south into Illinois along the Robert McClory trail to Waukegan. It is still unpaved but seems considerably improved. The last time I rode it (probably ten years ago) I came away with the impression it had been all but abandoned, until it crossed Sheriden Drive and became paved. The road crossings had been upgraded, the surface was good, and there was fresh paving in several sections, presumably those that were sandy or muddy.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has recently issued a draft report on putting a bike lane of the Hoan bridge that crosses Milwaukee’s harbor. A public hearing is scheduled for November 14.
This facility would close a gap in Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail. It would also close a gap in the series of trails that run from Chicago through Milwaukee towards Door county along Lake Michigan.
The challenge is that the lowest-cost alternative would take one of the north-bound traffic lanes, reducing vehicle traffic to two lanes from three. Alternative that do not take a traffic lane are considerably more expensive.
Kenosha county has recently paved its two sections of bike trails: from the Racine County line south to 35th St in Kenosha and from 89th St south to the Illinois state line. Thus the entire trail between Racine and Kenosha is now paved.
Several plans have been announced for construction in 2011:
- Hank Aaron Trail extension. Presently the Hank Aaron State Trail ends at 94th Place in West Allis. Bikes can continue west on the old right of way but the pathway is quite rough, more suitable for mountain bikes than road bikes. Plans have been announced to put in a temporary crushed stone surface connecting the HAST to the Oak Leaf Trail. Following the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange, plans are to construct a paved surface.
- Lake Country Trail paving. Last year both the western and eastern ends of the Lake Country Trail were paved, leaving the middle section, mainly through Nagawaukee County Park, unpaved. On its website the Waukesha county parks department has announced that paving the middle section will start this spring. This announcement should be treated with a bit of skepticism since the paving of the middle section was originally announced for last year.
- Oak Leaf to Ozaukee Interurban Trail connector. For some time plans have developed, and grants have been announced, to build a trail connecting the Ozaukee Interurban Trail (in the person of the Brown Deer Trail at Brown Deer Road) to the Oak Leaf Trail at Hampton Avenue on the north edge of Estabrook Park. The connector would use both WE Energies right of way dating from the old Interurban tracks and unused railroad tracks. Phase I of this project from Brown Deer Road to Bradley Road, connecting the Brown Deer Trail to the Oak Leaf Trail at Brown Deer Park, scheduled to take place this summer. While short, this section would eliminate a very tricky left turn between Green Bay Road and the old village of Brown Deer, a turn that is dangerous in both directions.
- Downtown to Bay View connector. This path would utilize long-abandoned railroad tracks east of First Street between National Avenue and Kinnickinnic Ave, replacing part on the on-street route between downtown Milwaukee and Bay View. This project was first presented some years ago, unfortunately as an alternative to allowing bicycles on the Hoan Bridge.
I would be very disappointed if these are the only bike-oriented projects around Wisconsin. Please let me know about those I have missed.
Cross-posted at Bikeverywhere.