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Trail construction fills in gaps for cyclists

By: Christina Lee
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New construction is in the works in the Folsom Historic District to create Folsom’s first Class IV bike lanes which is expected to be completed in September.

The Lake Natoma Trail Gap Closure Project limits are along the north side of Leidesdorff Street and Riley Street extending from Reading Street to Scott Street. The construction began in early May.

The protected Class IV bike trail coming up from Lake Natoma will allow bicyclists an exclusive 12-feet-wide lane, separate from vehicles and pedestrians. A parallel sidewalk will also be built for pedestrians.

“It’s the first Class IV bike trail, which is a little different for the first one the city has,” said Jim Konopka, senior park planner for the City of Folsom. “That’s a busy area in the Historic District, so we didn’t want to try to mix bikes and pedestrians in that area.”

To help cyclists navigate, the new bike lane will be colored red instead of the standard black asphalt.

“That’s going to help people realize that once you’re on [the lane], just follow that colored trail. That way, they really can’t get lost,” Konopka said. “A big problem is that inexperienced cyclists will come on to the trails. If we have that particular pavement colored, I think it would make it easier for [cyclists] to identify where they are and where they go.”

Traffic has been shifted to accommodate construction, but road closures should not be expected.

“The first phase we started now; we basically moved traffic over. As we move down with construction, you’ll still have two-way traffic,” Konopka said. “The only drawback is cyclists. They happen to compete with the smaller lanes of traffic for that short time.”

Started by popular demand, the new trail will be a big project for the community.

“I would call [the project] ambitious,” Konopka said. “People have been asking for it for many years. I think the biggest concern was that there was a gap in the Lake Natoma trail and it’s been that way for a long time.”

The project had begun with a feasibility study eight years ago, inspired by the dead-ending trail next to the Lake Natoma Inn which restricted any access to the Historic Truss Bridge, much to the public’s displeasure.

“The community wanted us to fill that gap with the trail,” he said.

Throughout the eight years, the construction team grappled with property issues.

“We couldn’t get an easement from the hotel. Then we have the Folsom Powerhouse, which we couldn’t go through either. The only option we had was to go out to the street level,” Konopka said. “We’re noticing any trail construction that’s in an existing street takes a long time, a lot of planning. You’d think a trail project is straightforward versus a road, but it takes the same amount of time as far as the designing and planning as a road would.”

The construction of the city’s first Class IV bike lane promises similar upcoming projects.

“A big complaint on our bike trails is the conflict. As they become more used, unfortunately, you have more conflicts,” Konopka said. “We’re trying to see if we can stay in front of that problem in the future.”

For more information or to view a trail detour map, go to folsom.ca.us.