Proposed Trail Would Run Along Lakes and Link Madison, McFarland, Monona, and Madison
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is applying for $10.3 million in federal transportation grant dollars to help fund the planned improvement of several miles of railroad track between Madison and McFarland and develop a new commuter bicycle/pedestrian trail that would run along the Lake Waubesa shoreline between the Village of McFarland and Lake Farm County Park. This is the first phase of a Lower Yahara River Trail envisioned to connect Madison and Stoughton and wind through scenic areas of southeast Dane County.
This project is the result of a partnership between Dane County and the Cities of Madison and Monona, the Village of McFarland, the Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources and Transportation, and the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Company.
The $10.3 million TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant that Dane County has applied for, would be used to upgrade five miles of railroad track used currently for freight rail shipping. The federal funding would also be used to help reconstruct a rail bridge over the Yahara River near Lake Farm County Park. Replacing this bridge will allow two boats to pass through under the trestle at the same time and improve the flow of water through the Yahara Chain of Lakes during periods of high lake levels.
If the grant application is successful, Dane County and its partners would fund 20% of the total cost of the project. It’s estimated the first phases of work for this project would begin in February of 2011. Completion would take around two years and it’s estimated $4-million of this project would be for workers wages for the many jobs this project would create.
“We’re aggressively pursuing these federal dollars to improve the safety of a key rail line that moves economic commerce in and out of our county and create new transportation opportunities for families,” Falk said. "This new trail would allow people to get to and from work while enjoying our lakes and countryside at the same time."
The federal grant application comes as the county recently purchased 36 Acres in the Town of Pleasant Springs that will be used in the future for part of the trail linking Stoughton and McFarland. The property is part of the 3,800 acre Door Creek Wetlands Natural Resource Area and the Door Creek Wildlife Area located on the north shore of Lake Kegonsa.
With the purchase, Dane County now owns 551 acres of this Natural Resource Area which offers public hunting and fishing opportunities. Restoring its wetlands will also help promote spawning of fish populations, like northern pike, and act as a natural filter for urban runoff before it flows into Door Creek.
The purchase won broad support from the Dane County Board and was approved on a voice vote.