In 2022, the Bike Fed was exploring new options to further our advocacy and legislative goals. We coined a new outlook called Connectors & Connections. The Connectors are priority projects in our state that allow people to access jobs, businesses and/or recreation via active transportation, as well as projects that improve safety in communities and add to an interconnected system of bicycle and pedestrian trails. While pursuing these we aim to create connections and build relationships between the Bike Fed, Wisconsin cyclists, and elected leaders.
Under the Connectors & Connections mind frame, we have identified key connectors – projects – that are important to cyclists from every corner of the state, and pinpointed invaluable connections – people – at the advocacy, government, and business levels to advance our collective goals for Wisconsin cycling.
In 2022, these projects received Federal and/or state funding and are slated for construction:
Fox River Trail
This landmark Fox River Trail spans 26.3 miles from Green Bay to Hilbert, making it a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, active commuters, daily walkers, and more! The Friends of the Fox River Trail estimates that the trail has been visited more than 2 million times since 1999, making it one of the state’s most-used trails as well.
But, with high-volume usage also comes high-volume needs. The foot and wheel traffic the trail draws every day takes a toll, and many sections of the Fox River Trail are now in need of repaving to ensure users can enjoy the trail safely. The need to prioritize the Fox River Trail was brought to Bike Fed’s attention by State Representative Kristina Shelton, who represents parts of Green Bay and uses the trail daily
The Friends of the Fox River Trail have launched a capital campaign to repave the 22-year-old Fox River Trail and expand the pavement 3.4 miles into Greenleaf. The Friends’ goal is to raise $300,000 toward the needed funding so that construction can take place in 2024-25. In 2022, Green Bay was awarded $840,721 in Transportation Alternatives (TAP) funding. In addition, the Green Bay Packers Foundation is matching up to $50,000 in public donations.
After sounding the alarm for her constituents regarding the Fox River Trail, Rep. Shelton had the following to say upon hearing the good news from DNR that maintenance on the trail will begin soon:
“As an all-seasons user of the Fox River Trail in Green Bay, I am thrilled to see Wisconsin continue to invest in active transportation routes, including our trails. Thank you to all of our trail system champions, elected officials and community leaders who continue to make this beloved trail possible for our families, friends, and neighbors.”
Granite Peak Expansion
In 2022, northern Wisconsin’s Rib Mountain State Park was undergoing a scheduled master planning process through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). One of the options was to provide more exciting opportunities for mountain bikers within the park at one of the State’s most known ski attractions: Granite Peak.
After robust public input from the Bike Fed, our Council of Advocates, bike retailers, and mountain bike enthusiasts, the approved plan includes two brand new opportunities for cyclists:
- A multi-use natural trail encircling the base of Rib Mountain, creating a recreational opportunity for cyclists, hikers, and walkers of all skill and comfort levels.
- 12-20 miles of mountain biking trails suitable for a variety of skill levels. Both “flow” and “gravity single-track” trails are included in the approved Master Plan.
This is a very exciting opportunity for the state of Wisconsin, one that will enhance Rib Mountain State Park as a year-round recreational hub. These new recreational developments at an iconic location will surely attract recreation seekers from around the state and the midwest. In addition to providing more recreational opportunities, this project will provide a long-term economic benefit to Rib Mountain and the surrounding Wausau area by drawing in more tourists and trail users.
With the approval of the Master Plan, the project is nearing its closing stages before the physical work at the park begins. The Bike Fed is proud to have been included in this planning process, and we are so grateful for our partners and advocates from around the state who have supported this project throughout the process.
If you are interested in reviewing the finalized Master Plan for Rib Mountain State Park, you can check it out here. Additionally, to view the NRB’s amendments to the plan, you can find that document here.
Highland Bike/Pedestrian Path
Following Bike Fed’s presentation at the Wisconsin Trails Caucus meeting in November 2021, Representative Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) approached our organization with a project in her district that she thought could use some help. Rep. Andraca connected Bike Fed staff with the Mequon Thiensville Community Foundation (MTCF) who had been heading up work to build a multi use path to link Mequon Rotary Park with the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
With Bike Fed assistance, MTCF applied for Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) dollars in 2022 and received $988,000 to complete the project.
Following presentations to the City of Mequon and the Mequon-Thiensville Bike and Pedestrian Way Commission in March of 2023 a formal agreement is being drafted between the City of Mequon and the MT Trails Foundation and the design for the Path is being finalized. Construction is slated to begin in Summer of 2024 and Bike Fed is excited that this important piece of cycling infrastructure will soon be a reality for Mequon residents and nearby communities.
HWY 67 Tunnel
In 2016, Hwy 67 in Oconomowoc was expanded where it intersects with I-94, and with that expansion came plans for a tunnel underneath the highway for the many hikers, bikers, and walkers using the Lake Country Trail. However, after bids to finish the tunnel came back higher than the project was funded for, the almost-finished Hwy 67 tunnel has remained unusable for over six years.
Starting in the summer of 2021, Bike Fed worked with Representative Barb Dittrich, the City of Oconomowoc, and Waukesha County in order to find the funding needed to get this project completed. While the project was eligible to apply for a few different funding sources, Waukesha County applied for a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) grant in 2021 and was awarded $2.281 million in funding to complete the project.
Update: Lake Country Trail Underpass Ribbon Cutting
Monday, December 4th, 2023 was a great day for improved biking and walking safety in Oconomowoc as officials, residents, dogs – and even a couple of Santas on bikes (who may have lost their way after the weekend’s Santa Cycle Rampage) – joined in a ribbon cutting and a first trip under the new Lake Country Trail Underpass.
For Bike Fed staff, this is the first of our priority projects to be completed since we began focusing on Connectors and Connections in 2021. Bike Fed priority projects are key infrastructure projects, brought to our attention by advocates across the state, which have the potential to dramatically increase safety and connectivity for people who bike and walk.
Bike Fed staff met with Representative Barbara Dittrich, who represents the 38th district, in 2021. Her constituents were eager to complete the tunnel under Hwy 67 that was begun, but never finished, when the highway was widened in 2016. The project had received a Transportation Alternatives Grant at the time, but then bids for the trail connections leading up to the tunnel came in much higher than anticipated. In 2021, Waukesha County applied for and received a $2.83 million CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to complete the tunnel.
The brand new tunnel is 197 feet long and includes lighting and smooth new trail approaches on the east and west side of state highway 67. The tunnel allows users of the popular Lake Country Trail, and the many families that have moved to this growing neighborhood, to safely avoid the very busy intersection of 67 and Oconomowoc Parkway. The Lake Country Trail Underpass took nearly a decade to complete and the Bike Fed congratulates Waukesha County, the City of Oconomowoc, CORRE, Inc engineering and the many trail advocates who pushed to make this important new piece of infrastructure a reality.
Members of the Rock Trail Coalition have been working on the Peace Trail since 2014. The vision for the Peace Trail is to connect the cities of Beloit and Janesville with an off-road transportation corridor for bicycling and pedestrian uses. Once completed, the Peace Trail will connect north to Janesville’s segment of the Ice Age Trail and further north to the Glacial River Trail and the central Wisconsin trail system. To the south, the Peace Trail will eventually connect through City of Beloit trails to the northern Illinois trail system.
As with so many trail projects throughout the state, the biggest obstacle to getting the Peace Trail completed has been funding. In 2022, the Rock Trail Coalition paved the last gravel portions of the beautiful 13.5 miles of trail that run along the Rock River. The next step is to continue the Peace Trail into the City of Beloit. A Transportation Alternatives (TAP) grant was recently awarded for $445,296 towards the project. Support for the Peace Trail has also come from Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Funds, Rock County and individual donors.
Wagon Wheel Connector
Much like the spokes on a wheel, the Wagon Wheel Connector project in La Crosse will serve as a hub of interconnectivity for hundreds of miles of trails between Wisconsin and Minnesota communities. While the actual project is quite small – less than a mile long – the benefits for trail users on the state’s western coast would be far-reaching.
The Wagon Wheel Connector involves creating a protected two-way bike and pedestrian lane on an already-existing bridge that connects La Crescent, Minnesota and La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Minnesota portion of the project is complete, it’s now time for the Wisconsin side to step up and get this project underway.
Working alongside Bike Fed, local stakeholders submitted a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant in 2022 and were awarded $4,010,400. However, due to inflated design and construction costs, the City of La Crosse has applied for a federal RAISE grant to obtain the additional funds needed to complete the project.
Have an idea for a Priority Project in your community? Please contact Bike Fed Government Affairs Manager Collin Mead at Collin@Wisconsinbikefed.org