A Dunn County committee will examine potential funding for expanded bicycle trails before voting on an official county bicycle and pedestrian plan.

The Dunn County Planning, Resources and Development Committee decided Tuesday to postpone a vote on the 189-page plan.

Several county supervisors said they were worried about the bike trails’ cost and the wide-ranging nature of the plan.

Dunn, Eau Claire and Chippewa county groups have been working on individual county plans since 2017.

Connecting the county

The plan proposes a network of bicycle trail projects throughout Dunn County, which would likely connect with trails in Eau Claire, Chippewa and St. Croix counties.

The centerpiece of the proposed plan is a network of 365 miles of trails through Menomonie, Boyceville, Colfax, Downing, Elk Mound, Knapp, Ridgeland, Wheeler and some unincorporated communities.

All the projects would not begin immediately, but would be scheduled over many years, according to the plan.

The plan doesn’t propose creating new routes through urban areas, but rather connecting and improving existing trails.

However, many of the existing trails need improvements before they’re safe for even veteran bicyclists, according to the plan.

Pressing pause

The bike trail projects are more affordable if they’re completed along with adjacent road construction projects, so creating the trail network “will likely take many years,” according to the plan.

If a trail is improved alongside a bigger road project, it would cost about $2,000 per mile for “minimum improvements,” and $168,800 per mile to pave new or add four-foot shoulders.

According to the plan, priority trail projects include a proposed trail from 670th Avenue in Menomonie to County Highway F, with an early cost estimate of $392,100 for about ¾-mile of trail, and a proposed paved trail from Look Out Road to County Highway E along Highway 12/29, with an early cost estimate of over $1 million for 2½ miles of trail.

To address the price, the plan states the county would look for grants and contributions and schedule trail projects at the same time as bigger highway projects.

Some supervisors cautious

County board chair David Bartlett said Tuesday he’s skeptical about adopting a plan with a large price tag, saying it could create unrealistic expectations.

The plan anticipates the Dunn County Board will add a line item on its budget to help fund the projects.

“I don’t think there’s reality in being able to do this bike plan ... it’s more of a wish list,” Bartlett said. “The reality is, we can’t afford to do this stuff (now).”

County leaders this year have warned that the county’s 2020 budget will likely be difficult to balance, and the county may face cuts to services. The county’s Human Services department saw a deficit in 2019 that caused a spike in the county’s overall budget, and Dunn County’s $21.6 million levy for 2019 has hit the maximum amount state law allowed.

“Here is something we’re saying we should be doing, but the reality is, I don’t know how quickly we’re going to do it,” Bartlett said.

Planning and zoning administrator Bob Colson said the plan is based on need, timing and funding: “I think this is a very long-range plan. It doesn’t obligate the county to do (this).”

Supervisor Gary Seipel said general transportation aid from the state has dropped, and construction costs have risen since 2017.

“I don’t know if it could some way be put into the plan that the plan does not bind the county to do these things in a (certain) timeframe,” Seipel said.

Supervisor Tom Quinn said the committee will examine the plan’s funding strategy and discuss it at a future meeting.

“I think the designated budget allocation probably needs to be considered more carefully,” Quinn said.

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Can this be done with the consent of the Red Cedar Speedway Association?

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