Location: Ottawa

Flint Hills Nature Trail Bridge To Be Replaced

On June 1st, the Kansas Department of Transportation is beginning a project to replace a bridge across US-75 Highway near Osage City. The bridge originally carried railroad traffic, but today is part of the Flint Hills Nature Trail.

The bridge is being replaced so that US-75 can be widened. The old bridge and its abutments limit the highway to two lanes with no shoulders. Once the new bridge is in place, the highway will have paved shoulders beneath the bridge — it already has wide paved shoulders both north and south of the existing bridge.

So this change will make US-75 much more bicycle-friendly, at least in terms of shoulders.

But before the old bridge was removed, I wanted to get some pictures, and also check out this section of the trail, which I’d never ridden before.

I entered the trail at Adams Road, a half mile east of US-75.

This is the view of the Flint Hills Nature Trail from Adams Road in Osage County, looking east. At this time this is the western terminus of this section of the trail.

This is the view of the Flint Hills Nature Trail from Adams Road in Osage County, looking west. The trail beyond this point is open to traffic, but the surface is raw ballast rock (no limestone screenings). The trail is accessed by walking your bike around either end of the gate.

This is a close-up view of the ballast rock on the Flint Hills Nature Trail west of Adams Road in Osage County. Although this may look rough, it’s really not bad — quite rideable (though wide tires are suggested).

Here’s a look at the old railroad bridge over US-75 Highway. Due to the bridge abutments, there are no shoulders on the highway beneath the bridge.

This is the view from the surface of the old railroad bridge, looking south. You can see the wide shoulders a couple hundred yards down the road. Once the bridge is replaced, those shoulders will continue beneath the bridge and beyond.

Here’s a close-up view of the decorative railing on the bridge. The railing is reasonably attractive, and looks to be in good shape (though needing repainting). I don’t know if this railing will be re-used on the new bridge or not. It’d be nice to have a bit of the old bridge survive, but with the new bridge being a longer length, it’s likely that the old railing would be too short.

It’s interesting, though a bit annoying, to note that the headline of the KDOT press release — Pedestrian Bridge Project Scheduled to Begin on US 75 in Osage County — makes it sound as if the project is being built to accommodate pedestrians. In fact, the existing bridge is perfectly fine for bicycles and pedestrians. The only reason it’s being replaced is to accommodate the highway running beneath it.

I hope they’re not classifying this as a “bike/ped project”, because that’s really not what it is at all. It’s a highway project. The only bike/ped part of it is that they’re replacing the bridge, rather than simply removing it.

If you read the press release, you’ll also note that KDOT talks a lot about the inconvenience to drivers and the detours that will be necessary during this construction.

They don’t say anything at all about the trail. Will it be closed? Will there be a marked detour? What about inconvenience to trail users due to this highway project?

They’ll likely simply close the trail, and anyone wanting to use the trail will need to re-route on surface roads.

This project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The projected cost is $887,364. It’s scheduled to be completed by late October.

After I checked out the bridge, I rode back east on the trail toward Pomona Lake.

Along the way I stopped to picking mulberries growing along the trail. If you’ve never tasted freshly-picked sun-warmed berries, you don’t know what you’re missing — yum! There were mulberry trees scattered along several miles of the trail, and I stopped numerous times to snack on the succulent fruit.

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

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