West Allis - An overpass planned for Highway 100 will provide a final link here for Milwaukee County bicyclists to pedal to near Madison on the Glacial Drumlin Trail.
Plans for the overpass, to be built alongside a Union Pacific Railroad overpass, were to be presented at an informational meeting Oct. 19.
There is already a bicycle path along Union Pacific tracks that proceeds west from Highway 100, known as the Crosstown Connection Bicycle Path. It crosses into Waukesha County with connections to Cottage Grove, near Madison.
But there's a gap of about a half-mile in West Allis, east of highway 100.
Peter Daniels, the city's principal engineer, said the city plans to pave a path east from the overpass to the intersection of 99th and Burnham streets, where it would connect to bicycle lanes.
Daniels said the city has applied to the state Office of the Commissioner of Railroads to cross Union Pacific's east-west line between Highway 100 and I-45/894.
The bike path is a ribbon adjacent to the track that travels beneath freeway lanes.
"I think that track carries about one train a month," Daniels said, adding that he lives near Greenfield Park, adjacent to the tracks and that "I've only seen a train on the 124th Street overpass once" in 18 years. "I hope the Commissioner of Railroads will allow us to cross this very lightly used track."
Just west of the freeway overpass, the Union Pacific tracks fork, as the lightly-used tracks the city wants to cross continue going west. More heavily used tracks turn to the north-northwest, and cross Greenfield Avenue and I-94 before marking the western boundary of the Milwaukee County Zoo and proceeding north to Butler.
In 2012, Daniels said, the state denied a request to cross those tracks. In Daniels' view, the denial was for a "rather flimsy reason," specifically a determination that lubricants used where the tracks divide would make them too slippery for bicyclists to cross.
"The real reason was that the railroad's insurance company didn't want any new crossings," Daniels asserted.
Calls to Union Pacific and the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads were not returned before press time.
The overpass is estimated to cost $1.2 million, and the new section of trail another $600,000. Both projects will receive 80 percent federal funding, with the rest of the cost paid by the city. Daniels said the city hopes to build the overpass in 2018. The path extension can't be built until 2019 due to ongoing freeway construction.
Daniels is enthusiastic about the project, saying it will make the path "like a highway for bikes."