First trail leg under construction

The first official segment of Seymour’s multipurpose trail is under construction, but some people are voicing concerns it takes away too much roadway from motorists.

Mayor Craig Luedeman said the project will narrow the driving width of Burkart Boulevard from East Fourth Street to North O’Brien Street some, but he doesn’t believe it will be noticeable when it’s finished.

That’s because the existing shoulder on the west side will become part of the road, he said.

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“Yes, it’s taking about a foot or so away,” he said. “But once the entire road is repaved, relined and traffic is shifted over, I don’t think it will be a problem.”

The trail, which is just shy of a mile in length, is the first leg of an entire trails system that is being developed throughout the city.

Luedeman said the trails are a priority for improving quality of life for Seymour residents by giving people a safe option for transportation, leisure and exercise.

In February, the project officially was named Crossroads Community Trails by the city’s trails committee.

City engineer Nathan Frey said the new trail is the result of the city working to adopt ordinances to become a “Complete Streets Community.”

“That means any time a new road is built or an existing road has any major work done to it, movement of pedestrians and bicycles are now considered,” he said. “If accommodating pedestrian traffic by adding things like trails, sidewalks or bike lanes is economically feasible, then those options have to be considered.”

The repaving of Burkart Boulevard has a price tag of $1.1 million, of which $250,000 is being used to construct the trail, Frey said.

The city paid for 100 percent of the design of the project and just 20 percent of the construction with the remaining 80 percent coming from federal transportation funds through the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“Burkart was targeted first for a trail mainly because of the need to do work to the roadway because of the condition that it was in,” Frey said. “The city was able to secure federal funds for the roadwork. The trail is just an added bonus.”

In the area of the new trail, Burkart Boulevard was two 12-foot-wide lanes with 8-foot-wide paved shoulders on both sides. After the work is complete, the lanes will be 11 feet wide with a 4-foot-wide paved shoulder on the west side and the trail on the east side, Frey said.

The trail is separated from the road by a 3-foot-wide concrete raised barrier that resembles a sidewalk. The trail will be 10 feet wide and have markings and signage, Frey said.

Plans call for the trail to continue along Fourth Street and O’Brien Street to make a complete loop.

Also, the city is working with INDOT to add a trail from Agrico Lane to U.S. 31 in a separate project scheduled for 2019, Frey said.

“Couple that with the new trail along the proposed southern bypass of Burkart Boulevard and the city will have a nice trail system that is connected,” he said. “Granted, there is one important piece that will need to be added, and that is crossing the overpass on Burkart, south of Fourth Street.”

Currently, there is a short portion of sidewalk along the west side of the overpass, but it doesn’t connect to anything. That will change as the trails development moves along, Frey said.

Seymour resident Stephanie Flinn said she already runs along Burkart Boulevard and will feel better about doing so with the improvements.

“I run that road frequently,” she said. “I am beyond excited about the trail to provide safety while doing so.”

But narrowing the driving side of the road doesn’t necessarily make it safer for anyone, said resident Erin Schepman.

“That is a major truck route through our city, and right now, nothing wider than a Honda Civic fits in the lanes,” she said. “Kudos to the city engineer for utilizing existing resources, but they took a significant portion of the road away.”

Although the trails project is important, it’s also costly, Luedeman said.

Seymour City Council adopted an official bicycle and pedestrian plan in May 2015 proposing the addition of 73 miles of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian routes in and around the city, including 39 miles of on-street bike lanes, 22 miles of off-street multiuse trails and 12 miles of new sidewalks.

The total cost of the project, including engineering, design and construction expenses, was estimated at $3.4 million, with the majority to be paid for through grants and fundraising.

Seymour Councilman Matt Nicholson supports trails development and said he is encouraged to see the progress being made.

He also is a member of the city’s trails committee.

By building the trail as part of an approved road project — in this case, the repaving of Burkart Boulevard — Nicholson said it makes the process much easier than trying to add the trail later.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said. “The work of many volunteers over the last several years has led to the start of a wonderful system. Without that legwork upfront, this section wouldn’t be in the works now, and we would be trying to retrofit it later.”

He said people should keep in mind a successful trails system, such as the People Trails in Columbus, takes years to build.

Seymour’s trail system will take 10 to 20 years, at least, to finish, he said.