O’FALLON, Ill. — Madison County Transit will unveil the newest addition to its vast 130-mile trail network on Saturday.
The expansion takes the existing Goshen Trail and extends it seven miles, from Troy to O’Fallon. It’s the first time the Madison County Transit, or MCT, trail system extends into St. Clair County.
“This will join the trail system that's beginning to evolve in St. Clair County with the MCT trail system that has been developed over the past 20-something years,” said MCT Managing Director Jerry Kane.
The opening of the new trail is welcome news for locals in St. Clair County who use MCT’s trails regularly, like cyclists in O’Fallon.
“It’s huge for St. Clair County to have this access,” said Jon Greenstreet, co-owner of O’Fallon-based Bike Surgeon. “We’ve got a ton of customers that all use the MCT trails but have to load up and drive somewhere. Now they’ll be able to hop on their bikes right out of their back door.”
On top of easy access to recreation, Greenstreet said the trail connects residents to striking views of nature in the Metro East.
“Some really beautiful scenery on this new chunk of trail,” he said. “The tree line is pretty amazing.”
The seven-mile trail expansion cost nearly $10 million and took nearly two decades to materialize. The Metro East Park and Recreation District, which aims to create a system of interconnected parks and trails across the Metro East, first identified the Troy-to-O’Fallon extension as something it wanted around 2002, Kane said.
The trail is built on old railroad right-of-ways from the 1800s, and most of the past 20 years were spent acquiring the land the new trail utilizes, Kane explained. Over the years, the land had been sold in various parcels.
“The railroad had sold of some of the parcels, and so the alignment had to be reconstructed, kind of like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again,” he said.
Kane explained the federal rail banking act made the expansion possible. It allows a community to build trails on out-of-service rail lines to preserve those corridors for the future.
“(The act) provides the foundation for the trail system that exists in Madison County today,” he said.
Greenstreet hopes the expansion will lead to more ridership. Bike Surgeon runs group bike rides throughout the year, but they’re typically for people with more experience on a bicycle, he said. The expansion of the Goshen Trail will make it easier to adjust a group ride to accommodate more inexperienced riders, he added.
“We’re really looking forward to the growth in ridership that we’ll see from it,” he said. “The folks that aren’t quite 100% confident with riding on the road with traffic but are still looking to explore riding.”
Bike Surgeon also has a store in the Bloomington-Normal area, which has a trail that is similar to MCT’s Troy-to-O’Fallon expansion. Greenstreet said that trail allowed their sister store farther north to interest more casual riders.
The new trail opens on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at the MCT Goshen Trailhead on Kyle Road in O’Fallon, Illinois.
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