River Trail to Be Extended East

Monday, March 4, 2019, 8:32 am
By: 
Jessy Gregg

Above: The Red Cedar River at Harris Nature Center in a photo taken yesterday. (Not part of the planned trail area.)

All the parts are finally starting to fall into place for a much-anticipated trail in Meridian Township that will connect the Lansing River Trail and MSU campus to Meridian’s existing Interurban Trail.

The ultimate goal is to provide a designated trail all the way from the Lansing River Trail to Ingham County’s Lake Lansing Park, making it possible to bicycle all the way from the Turner-Dodge House in Old Town to Lake Lansing. This will make it possible to bike and walk on a dedicated path from East Lansing east into Meridian Township, also making it easier for Meridian Township residents who work on MSU’s East Lansing campus to bike over.

Funding for the first two phases of the new trail have been secured, and now Township staff is ready to begin the next steps: turning the verbal agreements they have secured from property owners into legal easements, finalizing the design, obtaining all required permits, and asking for bids, so that construction of the trail can finally begin.

Meridian Township’s Chief Engineer Younes Ishraidi spoke with East Lansing Info (ELi) by phone about the scope of the trail and the many types of efforts that go into planning a trail of this magnitude.

The trail is being planned in three different phases.

Phase 1 of the trail (called “the MSU to Lake Lansing Connector” in the Ingham County Parks Master Plan) will begin with a pedestrian crossing on Hagadorn Road marked with a “Rectangular Reflecting Flashing Beacon” (RRFB). This is the same system that Meridian uses for the crossing of the Interurban Trail on Okemos Road. A person wanting to cross activates the beacon, which flashes to make drivers more aware of the crossing.

On the east side of Hagadorn Road, the trail will start near MSU’s Community Music School. It will then cross the Red Cedar River with a 220-foot-long bridge, and follow the course of the river south of the Capitol Villa Apartment complex. It will cross behind the Wellspring Assisted Living facility and then pass through the industrial area that houses the Ellison Brewery before ending at the traffic signal on Grand River Avenue near Foods for Living.

Phase 1 of the Connector is being funded through a $1.7 million Transportation Alternative Program Grant (TAP) from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), $950,000 from the Ingham County Parks and Trail Millage, and $350,000 from Meridian Township.

Phase 2 would then pick up on the other side of the railway overpass and skirt the northern boundary of Campus Hill Apartments before crossing the Pine Lake Drain and entering the Rysberg Natural Area owned by Meridian Township.

Phase 2 will end at Okemos Road near the Meridian Township Services Center. From there, trail users will be able to follow the pathway along Okemos Road to the Interurban trail, which ends on Marsh Road just north of the Haslett Middle School. Phase 2 is being funded with $650,000 from the Ingham County Parks and Trails Millage and $215,000 from Meridian Township.

Although the length of the Phase 1 and 2 segments is similar, Phase 1 contains more expensive features, including the bridge over the Red Cedar River. Some segments of Phase 1 along the river will have to be built as boardwalks.

The route for Phase 3 has not been finalized yet, but the aim is to reach Lake Lansing Park. A “River Trail to Lake Lansing Connector” was identified as the top priority for trail improvements in Ingham County during public engagement meetings after the Ingham County Parks and Trails Millage was passed in 2014.

Ishraidi told ELi that Meridian staff began in 2016 talking to MDOT about securing a TAP Grant for the 1.2-mile segment which makes up Phase 1 of the connector trail. They did not receive conditional commitment for those TAP funds until November 2018. The funding “conditions” include securing easements and permits, as well as approval of the final design, which must meet AASHTO’s (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) design standards.

Because obtaining easements and permitting can be time-consuming, Ishraidi told ELi that he doesn’t expect the new trail to break ground until Fall of 2020. In fact, he said, it’s possible that Phase 2 could begin construction first, since it is considerably less complicated and the majority of that segment is on Township property.

Ishraidi says he doesn’t anticipate any difficulties in procuring the easements. He says that property owners along the proposed trail have been enthusiastic, especially the owners of the apartment buildings, since they see the trail as a positive amenity for their residents.

For a PDF map of the planned extensions, click here. For more information about trail improvements in the area, see the County’s dedicated page on the Trails and Parks Millage.

 

Note: ELi Reporter Jessy Gregg serves voluntarily on the Ingham County Parks Commission, which provides recommendations to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners regarding allocations from the Ingham County Parks and Trails Millage.

 

 

 

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