The village of Swansea plans to submit its preliminary design for a new bike trail along Boul Avenue for approval by state officials this month.
The 1/2-mile asphalt trail, expected to be completed by 2020, will run from High Mount School to a new trailhead park behind Cholula's Mexican restaurant and connect to the 11-mile MetroBikeLink Trail.
"It really opens up the whole region to that trail for people who want to use it for exercise or even commuting," said Lyndon Joost, Swansea village administrator.
The Boul Avenue Trail also could be used by High Mount students walking from the school to Melvin Price Memorial Park.
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"That's where we play our sports games," said Superintendent Mark Halwachs. "We use the soccer, baseball and softball fields."
Today, some students walk down Boul Avenue and cut over to the Melvin Price trail, but Halwachs discourages that route because Boul has no sidewalk. His preferred alternative goes west on Morgan and south on Duncan.
Halwachs wrote a letter of support for the Boul Avenue Trail last year, noting that it would provide a more direct and safer route for students and improve public access to the MetroBikeLink Trail.
"I think anytime they can connect the bike trails, it's a good thing for people in the neighborhood and the community," he said.
St. Clair County Transit District owns the land where village officials would like to put a trailhead park with a parking lot, restrooms and a small pavilion with picnic tables.
"It would be a good place to park if you were going to use the (MetroBikeLink) trail," Joost said.
Engineering and construction for the Boul Avenue Trail and trailhead park will cost an estimated $840,000. Officials hope to start building in March of 2020 and complete the project in about six months.
The village has received $275,000 in federal funds through the Transportation Alternatives Program but can't move forward until the preliminary design is approved through the Illinois Department of Transportation, Joost said.
Another $300,000 is being granted by Metro East Park and Recreation District, which already has added the Boul Avenue Trail to its online map under the category of "trails under construction."
"It fits right into our mission," said Executive Director Bryan Werner, noting the trail will expand its regional system and particularly benefit people who live or work near High Mount or Melvin Price.
The village of Swansea expects to spend $165,000 of its own money on the project, Joost said. Officials still are exploring other funding sources for the remaining $100,000.
The project will include a crosswalk and a button that people can push to turn on a "flashing beacon" when they're crossing Boul Avenue.
"It doesn't actually stop traffic, but it will alert people that you're there," said Sheila Kimlinger, spokeswoman for the engineering firm, Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen in Swansea.