This pedestrian bridge near Benjamin Elementary School has only mowed pathway on either said. The City and Unit 5 hope the bridge is soon a feature of a bicycle and pedestrian asphalt path linking The Grove subdivision and the school.
Some students from Benjamin Elementary School live within sight of a school that they cannot safety walk to. The City of Bloomington, in partnership with McLean County Unit 5 School District, is trying to rectify the situation by building a trail from the school connecting to two parts of The Grove on Kickapoo Creek subdivision.
The neighborhood and school are on the far southeast edge of the City. The school opened in 2010, and plans for a connecting trail have been paper from the outset. However, tight budgets and long lists of priorities have intervened. With the help of a Safe Routes to School grant from the State of Illinois, the City hopes to build the Benjamin School Trail in 2016.
Two key pieces of the trail already are in place: A bridge spanning Kickapoo Creek (pictured above) and a pedestrian underpass at the school (shown at right during its construction in 2009) . As seen in the included map, the trail will traverse future City parkland and an already built prairie restoration. Following are details of the project included in the grant application.
The City will construct an off-road asphalt path for pedestrians and bicyclist. It will connect Benjamin Elementary School to portions of The Grove on Kickapoo Creek subdivision and a future Bloomington park on Bloomington's far southeast side. The Benjamin School Trail will be a 10-foot-wide pathway which complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It will stretch 4,180 lineal feet.
Going east to west, the Benjamin Trail will begin at an underpass under Black Oak Boulevard next to Benjamin Elementary School. Built in 2009, the underpass connects school property with a parkland dedication area granted by Eastlake LLC, developer of The Grove. Cost of the $606,000 underpass was split evenly by the City and Eastlake LLC.
The trail will then arc in a northwesterly direction within the park. It will link to a dedicated sidewalk along the 49-home Grove 4th Addition. This portion of the Grove neighborhood will have continuous sidewalk and street access to the school eventually. Currently, the sidewalks have numerous gaps located in front of lots where houses have not been built, which is a consistent issue throughout The Grove subdivision at this time.
For this reason, Unit 5 doesn't consider the sidewalks to be a safe route and provides busing for all Benjamin students.
Under the City Code, sidewalks do not have to get built until houses are constructed because home-building equipment breaks the sidewalk if the sidewalk exists prior to home construction. (The developer must complete the sidewalk if 90 percent of homes are built.) The trail will provide an inviting, safer, off-road alternative for school children and their parents living within the eastern portions of The Grove even after continuous sidewalks are in place. It will enhance the enjoyment of the school commute as sought by the SRTS program to promote health.
The trail will then arc southwesterly into parkland and prairie restoration areas and meet Kickapoo Creek at a pedestrian bridge. The bridge was constructed in 2008 by the City for $363,000 using a portion of a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for prairieland and stream restoration and area enhancement. This bridge and related prairie restoration involves partnership among the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, United States Geological Survey, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. EPA, City of Bloomington and Eastlake LLC.
West of the bridge, the trail will arc northwesterly, also along parkland and restoration land, and link to a preplanned spot providing access to the 358 lots of the original Grove development, plus its first and third additions
The western subdivision additions of The Grove have no sidewalk access to the school. In summary, the route will provide access to 407 homes developed or under development and access for future residential development of approximately 225 lots in the western portions of The Grove. It will abut and, at points, cross a prairie restoration area. Where construction enters the restoration zone, the City will restore the area post-construction to state standards, and the City's engineering plan budgets for doing so.
The Route Currently
While the underpass and bridge now exist, only a mowed path maintained by the Bloomington Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department connects them and the neighborhoods. The mowed path falls well short of ADA criteria, is not bicycle-usable, does not yet extend the entire length of the proposed trail and poses travel problems to pedestrians in inclement weather.
The Benjamin School Trail will provide a safe, direct and efficient route for students while promoting
immediate health benefits and encouraging development of long-term healthy lifestyle among both students and parents. The trail will relieve traffic congestion at the school, as the new student self-commuters will no longer be riding to school in a car with parents.
|Ireland Grove Road in front of Benjamin Elementary School: 45 mph and no sidewalk.||The trail to Benjamin School will cross the Kickapoo Creek in a prairie restoration area.|