According to the Peoria Park District, the project to extend a trail through the city along the Kellar Branch line, a now-vacant railroad right of way, “has taken nearly 30 years from the first construction on the riverfront until today.”
That’s nearly 30 years and counting.
Updates on funding and construction of the “backbone of Peoria’s bike trail system” are now available online from the Peoria Park District. The page includes construction updates, contact information and an FAQ, which leads off with the obvious question, “Why is it taking so long to build? It’s just a bike trail!”
Warning, opinion ahead: I can only assume the question came from someone unfamiliar with Peoria and the one-paragraph answer from someone who didn’t really want to write a book on the topic. But let’s broaden that question to ask why Peoria is so ineffective at accommodating bicycle use.
For all intents and purposes, Peoria set potential trail users against a failed railroad for three decades. The struggle helped ensure that very little progress was made in bicycle accommodation. Improving the lot of people on bicycles in Peoria was largely viewed as the responsibility of the Park District, and the Park District had/has one solution: the Kellar Branch. The Peoria City Council, which directs the city manager who oversees the Public Works Department in charge of streets, effectively used the potential of the non-existent trail to justify its lack of interest in other bicycle-related infrastructure improvements. Fortunately, the mayor has issued a National Bike Month proclamation, which will change everything, just like it did in 2001.
Back to the story: Interestingly enough, the multi-use trail (“Rollerblades, strollers, bikes, wheelchairs [both manual and electric] and children’s non-motorized scooters are allowed”) doesn’t have an official name.
According to the FAQ: “The naming of Park District facilities is a Board prerogative, and so far the Board has not voted on a name. For the past 17 years we have called it the Rock Island / Pimiteoui Trail Extension on internal and draft documents, but the final decision will be up to the Board.”
Read on: Here’s the link.
UPDATE: Ken Kiley, a member of the Friends of the Rock Island Trail, recently imagined Peoria’s “missing link” after completion for InterBusiness Issues.