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Decatur seeks to extend Dr. Bill Sims Bike Trail

By Catherine Godbey 340-2441

Places across the United States are promoting healthy living.

New York City banned trans fats in restaurants.

California outlawed smoking in all restaurants and bars.

Decatur is extending the Dr. Bill Sims Bike Trail.

Mayor Don Kyle touted the benefits of lengthening the bike trail. It offers residents an opportunity to exercise, increase their health and enjoy themselves, he said.

Begun in 2002, the bike trail runs from Eastwood Elementary School in Southeast Decatur to Rhodes Ferry Park. By next spring the six-mile trail will double in length due to federal and state funding.

Last week, the Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a draft Transportation Improvement Plan that allots $300,000 for the Phase 3 extension of the bike trail.

With the completion of Phase 2, which connects Alabama 20 to Eighth Street Southwest — expected by the end of August — the city is looking ahead to Phase 3.

Engineering and Public Works departments are finalizing the design for the trail, which will extend from Central Parkway at Eighth Street to Wilson Morgan Park. Once that is decided, the city will submit the trail design to the Alabama Department of Transportation for approval.

The initial plan for Phase 3 followed the CSX railroad tracks to Wilson Morgan Park, cutting through the yards of businesses. Mark Petersohn, director of Engineering and Public Works, redesigned the plan to decrease the city's expenses for right of way acquisition.

In the revised plan, the trail follows Central Parkway south, travels along the alley behind Phillips Drive, turns west on Bluebird Drive and connects with the existing trail at Wilson Morgan via Clearview Street. Petersohn anticipates Phase 3 construction beginning in the fall and finishing by spring.

The bike lane will run alongside the road, except for Sunnybrook Drive, where the city will designate a portion of the road for bicyclists.

To increase safety, the city is installing a pedestrian-activated crossing system where Central Parkway intersects 14th Street. The system will include a countdown timer that notifies pedestrians how many seconds remain before cars are permitted to proceed.

The allotment of funds for Phase 3 construction brings Decatur closer to its vision for the trail.

"The goal has been to make a complete loop around the city," Kyle said. "Maybe, over time, it will even branch out into other areas of the city."

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