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IDOT, IDNR celebrate Kickapoo Rail Trail improvements

A former railroad bridge above the Middle Fork Vermilion River received new life as the newest segment of the Kickapoo Rail Trail connecting Champaign and Danville. The Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Natural Resources were joined by local organizations on Nov. 5 to celebrate the completion of the repurposed bridge, located near the Kickapoo State Recreation Area.

"The completion of the Kickapoo Rail Trail improvements will not only make traveling through Vermilion County more accessible, it will do so sustainably," said Gov. JB Pritzker. "These upgrades help grow Illinois' long legacy as a leader in the green transportation sector. Improving the beautiful 1,300-foot railroad bridge will ensure residents and visitors alike can better explore all that Illinois has to offer."

The new bridge deck, which runs almost 100 feet above the Middle Fork Vermilion River, was remade from sustainably harvested hardwood on top of the existing substructure, reducing project costs and resulting in less impact to the surrounding environment. The $3 million bridge was made possible by $1.6 million from Vermilion County and $1.4 million through IDOT's Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program to expand travel options and enhance quality of life throughout the state with a special focus on equity.

"This stunning bridge is going to be a vital part of the state's overall transportation network and a landmark attraction for the region," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. "The Kickapoo Rail Trail is yet another example of how IDOT under Gov. Pritzker is back in the business of innovatively connecting communities and building a premier transportation system for Illinois with respect for the environment."

Since 2010, ITEP has invested $5.3 million for various improvements along the Kickapoo Rail Trail. As part of Gov. Pritzker's historic Rebuild Illinois capital program, IDOT awarded an all-time high of $106 million dollars through ITEP this year. Among the 99 projects receiving awards are a 1.5-mile extension of the Kickapoo Rail Trail, which will run through Ogden and extend to the border between Champaign and Vermilion counties.

The $364,000 in improvements overseen by IDNR include a new entrance from U.S. 150, a 23-car parking lot, restroom facilities, an informational kiosk, solar lighting and improved access for trail users with disabilities.

"This section of the trail  — so near to Kickapoo State Recreation Area  — is an ideal addition to the great recreational opportunities we have available just down the road at that beautiful state park," said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. "IDNR is grateful for the opportunity to work with our partners and develop this project as another link to bring families and communities together to enjoy the outdoors."

Overseen and maintained by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and the Vermilion County Conservation District, the Kickapoo Rail Trail follows the path of the former CSX railroad, eventually connecting the 24.5 miles from East Urbana to Kickapoo State Recreation Area. The 7.5 miles that have been converted for trail use traverse some of the most diverse ecosystems in the state, including woodland, prairie and wetland, making it popular with locals as it passes through St. Joseph, Ogden, Fithian, Muncie and Oakwood. Visit www.onekrt.org for more information.

Passed in 2019, Gov. Pritzker's Rebuild Illinois is investing $33.2 billion into the state's aging transportation system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history but also the first one that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail and aviation as well as bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.