Hank Aaron Extension Has Been Extended

Almost exactly a year since the Hank Aaron State Trail was extended and paved from Miller Park out to 94th Place, the extension has been extended the remaining 30 blocks of the abandoned railroad corridor purchased by the WDNR years ago. While the project is not 100% finished, this final extension of the Hank Aaron State trail fills in southeastern Wisconsin’s last big gap in the state trail network from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi.

 

This latest extension of the Hank Aaron Trail fills in the last big gap in the eastern half of this cross-state trail network.

With daylight savings time over, I just managed to ride the full length of the new trail extension and take some photos before the sunset yesterday after work. The new segment starts at S 94th Place on the border of Milwaukee and West Allis where the trail was extended last November.

The trail used to end at 94th Place, which is just a neighborhood street and not any sort of destination. You can see the new crushed limestone extension heading off to the west. Note the crossings on the trail are not finished as the sidewalk, curb and gutter were only recently poured. The final landscaping around these sections should be done later next week.

Welcome to the latest urban escape route.

You can now ride on the Hank Aaron all the way out to meet the Oak Leaf Trail at Bluemound Rd and Underwood Parkway. This surface for this 2.5 mile section is compacted crushed limestone. As you can see in the photo above, there is some construction, but you can ride around it until it is done later next week. I rode the trail with 23mm wide tires and a fixed gear bike and I did not have any trouble.

 

The Zoo Interchange is the reason the trail is not yet paved in asphalt.

The trail was not paved with asphalt because it passes under five bridges that are part of the Zoo Interchange. All the bridges will have to come down when the Interchange is reconstructed sometime around 2018 and the WisDOT did not want to put down asphalt that they will have to rip up again in 6 years. I find it odd that we are pinching pennies on a $2 billion interchange project that will probably have more temporary asphalt than the entire Hank Aaron State Trail from end to end.

 

The compacted crushed limestone surface is OK even for skinny tired bicycles, but not for scooters, strollers, skateboards or other smaller wheeled vehicles.

As I mentioned above, I rode a bike with pretty skinny tires and I did not have any trouble. While the crushed limestone surface is a fine temporary trail surface for most bicycles, it does not work well if you want to push a stroller or skate. I saw a kid pushing a scooter and running along side a friend on a bike because his wheels did not roll on the gravel.  Personally I am sort of partial to gravel trails and organized gravel road rides are growing in popularity, but there remains a significant percentage of people who won’t ride their bicycles on limestone trails.  Some don’t what their paint chipped and getting their bicycle and drivetrain all full or the limestone fines. Still other people want the smooth ride of asphalt and skip gravel trails, but let’s get back to the positives.

 

The trail connection near the north side of the parking lot at the Colders Store.

One of the things I was pleased to see were the connections from the trail to nearby businesses.  The trail still needs a few more connections into the neighborhoods that it goes past and even to some major roads, but a number of those are at different grades.

 

There is a nice connection from the trail to S 116th Street near Great Lakes Recycling.

The sunset was hard to beat.

Whether you have two legs or four, the crushed limestone makes for a great running surface.

Now that this trail extension is in, you can ride your bike 170 miles from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River almost entirely on trails. If you zoom in on the set end of the Google map of the route, you can see there are still a few long gaps on west end of the trail network.  That is how building a trail network works, you take advantage of all the opportunities to put in a trail when they present themselves, usually as rail corridors are abandoned.  Then you work like the devil to fill in the gaps any way you can.

You will also notice the trail network not only leads to the Mighty Muddy, but to the town of Potosi, which is the home of the super cool Potosi Brewing Company, not a bad place to have at the end of a long bike ride. Who wants to plan a trip next spring?

 

There remain a few places on the trail that have larger gravel due to other construction projects along the trail, but Melissa Cook from the WDNR told me they have lots of crushed limestone in reserve to fill in these spots after the contraction is done.

Saving the best for last, here is the connection to the Oak Leaf at Bluemound and Underwood Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 11 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave lives with his wife Liz and daughter Frankie in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

10 thoughts on “Hank Aaron Extension Has Been Extended

  1. Dave, I have long wanted to do a ride from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River … my in laws live in Southwestern Wisconsin and the rolling hills of Iowa County are the best place I’ve ever been on a bike.

    I love the idea of ending the tour at the Potosi microbrewery. Why not hit up some of the great microbreweries and brewpubs along the way, like Tyrena in Lake Mills, Capital in Middleton, the Grumpy Troll in Mt Horeb and Brewery Creek in Mineral Point. Seems like every small town in Wisconsin has great beer.

    A beer and bike tour like this would be a great way to highlight two of Wisconsin’s most famous industries.

  2. Dave that’s a great idea! I’ve been wanting to do just that for a long time.
    Not being from Milwaukee I’m not familiar with the biking there – I live a couple hours away and always wanted to rode the Oak Leaf but no opportunity yet, However, a loosely organized trip from Milw to Potosie is something I would jump at!

    Assume taking the Glacial Drumlin to Madtown, then Military Ridge west would be the route?

  3. As you infer, limestone can leave it’s trail on your bike; but the meanness of the mess can be awful on wet days. The organized road rides you mention must be on small, packed gravel. Our road rides are on asphalt! Thanks for the good article and pictures.

  4. Great story and pics Dave. As an almost-daily user of the Hank between Hawley and Emmber, I’m geeked to go west for a change and see what the rest of it is all about. Potosi sounds nice…

  5. Just rode it to work. This is awesome. I can now bike from Butler to West Allis Memorial Hosp in about 50 minutes and it takes me 30 minutes to drive.

    The onramp issue is an issue though. From 94th to 76th there is no way on or off the trail! There needs to be an access point to 84th by the State Fair and at least some signage on 92nd.

  6. I live basically at Bluemound Road and 124th St and work in downtown Milwaukee. The final trail extension creates a wonderful way for west side bike commuters like me to get downtown. It is great (although I do wish it were paved the entire way).

  7. Living near the new trail extension, I love that I can avoid bicycling on many city roads to get all the way downtown! However, I would caution riders who may want to take their road bikes on it – I got a flat tire last weekend after riding on the crushed limestone portion. :(

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