Workers construct MetroBikeLink trail bridge in Belleville in 2017
Cyclists, runners and recreation-seekers alike will have three-and-a-half more miles of trail along the metro-east portion of MetroLink light rail tracks after an extension project is completed.
Built on an old rail bed, the trail extension will connect the Memorial and Fairview Heights MetroLink stations. The extension is expected to open in fall 2019.
The new trail extends through an historic part of St. Clair County known as Dutch Hollow, rich in its mining and railroad roots, said Richie Meile, chairman of the St. Clair County Transit District Board.
A cost has not yet been determined for the project, St. Clair County Transit District Managing Director Ken Sharkey said. The project is expected to go out to bid within the next 30 days, Sharkey said.
The transit district will pay for the project with money from its fund, which generates revenue through a sales tax. The Metro East Park and Recreation District also partners with the district on projects.
“We are excited to see the latest addition to our trails to transit system come online in 2019 especially in light of the fact that this trail will provide access to areas of our community that go back to our economic roots of mining,” Meile said in a prepared statement.
The extension will connect to 11-and-a-half miles of existing trail along MetroLink lines. The extension will also connect to the new Orchard Loop Trail, which is expected to open before the end of the year. The Orchard Loop Trail is a three-mile path connecting with Eckert’s Orchard on the southeast side of Belleville.
Parking and access to the new 10-foot-wide trail will be available at both the Memorial and Fairview Heights station.
History of the trail
The trail was originally a train track used to transport coal from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. It was formerly operated by the CSX Transportation rail company.
The trail will pass by the former Winslow Mining Company along Schoenberger Creek.
The St. Louis and Southeastern Railway stopped at the mining company during their days of operation until being acquired by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1879. Several other mining companies operated on the rail.