DeKALB – The City of DeKalb is moving forward with a plan to provide more pathways for bicyclists over the Kishwaukee River and underneath North First Street.
The plan was given the formal go-ahead by the DeKalb City Council this week for city staff to stay the course on a proposed design for the bike paths, which will create more routes for those near Northern Illinois University, Clinton Rosette Middle School and downtown, among other areas.
Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre said he sees the need for the path, especially when there’s more traffic on the street during school day afternoons and no adequate crossings for pedestrians or bikes. He said he believes the plan aligns with the city’s goal to be more biker-friendly.
“I love it,” Faivre said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
According to a May 21 social media post from the City of DeKalb, the project would connect the bike path to the NIU campus and another next to Clinton Rosette Middle School. Currently, those using the paths have to stop at the bridge and wait for passing traffic before continuing.
Zac Gill, city engineer for DeKalb, said the proposed bike path is part of the North First Street bridge reconstruction project, which is set for spring of 2022. At the same time, an underpass for path users would be built beneath North First Street, according to city officials.
“So that is under design,” Gill said.
Gill said the plan is for the project to go for bid at the beginning of next year.
“But obviously, a bridge project is an 18 month design and permit phase,” Gill said. “So we needed to get that direction on the underpass now so that designers can get started on that.”
Downtown bike lanes
The City Council also approved city staff’s recommendation for downtown bike lanes to be added to Grove Street between First and Fourth Street.
Gill said the Lincoln Highway lane reconfiguration project – which includes making Lincoln Highway a three-lane road with a center turn lane instead of the current four lanes in those four blocks in the downtown area – prompted the need for the parallel bike routes.
“So that would have to be somewhat around the same timeline,” Gill said. “And that project is going to be for fall of this year.”
According to the city’s announcement, there is not enough room on Lincoln Highway for the required bike lanes and the Fourth Street intersection is dangerous for bicyclists with its convergence of two rail lines and two state highways. Staff recommended Grove Street as an alternative, since the road is wide enough to accommodate two ten-foot driving lanes along with the bike lanes.
“The project will slow truck traffic on the downtown’s main thoroughfare, making the downtown more pedestrian friendly while providing businesses with more sidewalk space for sales and outdoor dining,” city officials wrote in the post.
Gill said city staff needed the additional direction because he wants to get started on the bidding and construction process soon. He said the hope is for the city to start the bidding process for the downtown bike lanes project by the end of this summer.
“We would start [breaking ground] obviously after Corn Fest,” Gill said. “We want to let the dust settle on that and we would start right afterwards.”