Chris Young’s outdoors column focuses on Interurban Trail

The Interurban Trail may take yet another turn in its journey south from Springfield to Chatham.

The developer of the new Legacy Pointe project has proposed rerouting the trail around the development to steer cyclists away from traffic on the new, six-lane MacArthur Boulevard.

“When Legacy Pointe happens, it’s probably not conducive to having the bike trail on MacArthur,” says Stephen Luker, a managing partner of Legacy Pointe Development, a company formed through Lincoln Land Development of Springfield.

That’s because cyclists would have to contend with a busier MacArthur Boulevard when it is extended south from Wabash Avenue to connect with Interstate 72. Plans call for the road to be widened from four lanes to six, and four major roads will intersect MacArthur, causing potential safety concerns for cyclists trying to cross.

“We’re willing to step up to the plate and give the ground to reroute the bike trail around the back side of the development and make it better for all of us,” Luker says.

He says Legacy Pointe, a combined residential and commercial development, will be pedestrian-friendly and a good fit for the bike path.

“It is a much more favorable trail,” says Michael Stratton, executive director of the Springfield Park District. Stratton praised Legacy Pointe developers for coming up with a solution to a complex problem — how to preserve the Interurban Trail — and for offering to donate the land. Luker says the right of way for the trail would be given to the park district.

The Springfield Park Board has given its backing to the idea by passing a motion supporting the proposal during a special board meeting Aug. 2, Stratton says.

A map of the proposed change was on display at a reception held by the Springfield Bicycle Club and the Springfield Road Runners on Aug. 24 at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. The goal of the reception was to acquaint elected officials with issues surrounding multi-use recreational trails in the Springfield area.

Bill Donels, who has worked on the Interurban Trail issue with fellow bike club member Lynn Miller, says traffic on the new road will rival that on West Wabash Avenue or Veterans Parkway.

“I personally think it will be a waste of money to do anything along MacArthur,” he says.

All parties cite current safety concerns about the volume of traffic and the necessity of cyclists to cross major intersections — some up to five lanes wide with turn lanes.

Luker says he is concerned that stoplight timing might not leave enough time for cyclists to get across.

“It would be too dangerous,” Donels says.

The trail as currently designed would have to cross Lincolnshire Boulevard, a new road called Center Drive, Lindbergh Drive and Westchester Boulevard.

Instead, the new proposal has the trail jogging to the west along Westchester Boulevard for a short jaunt before going down an abandoned railroad right of way. 

“As you get to the back side of Legacy Pointe there is a hedge row, and (the trail would run) all the way down that hedgerow,” Luker says. “And then it goes east and ties into the tunnel that goes under the MacArthur extension. “So that hasn’t changed.”

The tree canopy potentially could provide some shade for cyclists, he says.

Bill Frey, an engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation District 6 office in Springfield, says all entities will be meeting soon to hammer out final plans for the road and bike trail.

“We’re going to be resuming meetings with Legacy Pointe and the park district so we can bring this to a conclusion shortly as we begin to design the paving contract for the six-lane MacArthur extension,” he says. “We’ve been committed to working with the park district and the bike club to get a usable facility for them.

“That has been our commitment, and it continues to this day.”

Frey says plans have to be done sometime after the first of the year. “So I think everyone is going to be getting together and bringing this to a conclusion in the next few months.”

State Journal-Register

Chris Young can be reached at chris.young@sj-r.com.