MATTOON — An asphalt paving project that aims to make the bicycle ride between Charleston and Mattoon smoother and quicker has reached its conclusion.
Ne-Co Asphalt Co. crews started paving the gravel surface of the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail westward out of Charleston on June 5 and completed the final section to Logan Street in Mattoon by late Monday morning.
"The asphalt is done and people can enjoy the trail right away," said Mattoon Public Works Director Dean Barber.
Bicyclists and pedestrians already have been using the newly paved section of the trail that extends west from Charleston, just north of the Coles County Fairgrounds.
"We have received a lot of positive reactions to the paving and the number of users on the trail has already significantly increased," said Charleston City Planner Steve Pamperin.
The paving work is set to be followed this year by striping and sign improvements on the trail from Logan to 10th streets in Mattoon and E to 14th streets in Charleston. Striping work also is slated to take place along the bike lanes on Sixth and Seventh streets in Charleston to help them serve as a route from the trail to Eastern Illinois University.
Barber said this year subcontractors will place earthen shoulders along the edges of the new asphalt and new striping at the points where the recreation trail crosses roads, as well. Additional landscaping is planned, too.
"We are always improving on the landscaping along the trail and at the trail heads," Pamperin said.
The major funding portion for the paving project was allocated in 2016 when a joint grant application from Charleston and Mattoon led to an award of $800,000 in federal grant funding from an Illinois Department of Transportation program. This provided the majority of the funding for the $1 million paving work.
Additional funding for the project was provided by the Charleston Area Charitable Foundation, First Mid Bank & Trust, Lumpkin Family Foundation, and Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System. Ameren Illinois, the Bike & Hike store in Charleston, Charleston Rotary Club, Pheasant Forever, and Urban Butterfly Project provided support for this effort.
"The amount of people who got involved with this is unbelievable," said Bike & Hike Advocacy Director Brendan Lynch, adding that Pamperin and other project leaders brought $800,000 in federal funding to Coles County at the height of the state budget impasse. "It's one of the best projects I have ever been involved with."
Lynch said paving the trail will increase bicycle use between Charleston and Mattoon by making the ride smoother and quicker. He estimated that the average time of riding the trail will decrease from 2-4 hours to as low as 1 hour.
"(At Bike & Hike), we are fielding 10 or more questions a day on this. People are thrilled," Lynch said, adding that these inquiries have been from as far as Chicago. "It's a great marketing opportunity for our community."
In Charleston, Pamperin said the city plans next to enhance bike lanes and related signage between EIU and the Lake Charleston trail system. In Mattoon, Barber said the city plans to apply for grant funding to extend the recreation trail west from 10th Street to 16th Street downtown, near the Amtrak depot.
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Contact Stroud at (217) 238-6861.
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