JEFFERSON, Iowa, Sept. 7, 2016 -- The 89-mile Raccoon River Valley Trail, already regarded as one of the longest and best recreational trails in America, is now offering more safety and comfort for trail users with the paving of the RRVT's crossings of gravel roads in Greene, Guthrie and Dallas Counties.
We've got an unusual vantage point on that construction here, with some special photo work by Jamie Daubendiek, of Daubendiek Photography in Jefferson. He mounted a camera on a drone, and on Tuesday, Sept. 6, flew it around and above one of the paving sites. Some of his video footage, he said, is from "about 200 feet" up.
Crews from Dennhardt Construction and Hamilton Redi-Mix, both also from Jefferson, were contracted this summer to pave the RRVT crossings of gravel roads in the Greene County portion of the trail. Going into this week, they'd all been completed except one of the longest and most-challenging crossings -- on a curve on 265th Street just north of the Winkleman Switch trailhead. That's about four miles south of Jefferson on the trail. The engineering, design and preparation of the ground was handled by the Greene County Engineer's staff and the county's Secondary Roads Department.
The Daubendiek Photography camera on a drone shows us the Raccoon River Valley Trail’s crossing of 265th Street being paved. This is just north of Winkleman Switch, about four miles south of Jefferson in Greene County. Get ready for the “spin” in the middle of this video, and then the drone’s camera will look on north toward Jefferson.
Over about four days of work, the crews first paved about 50 feet of the actual road bed. So that the road would not have to be closed, the workers paved half the road bed one day, the other half the next day.
Then they came back a couple days later to pave the curved connections of the trail from the fence lines to the road bed. Those are constructed with "S" curves, so that trail users get a wider view of possible vehicular traffic as they approach the road on their bicycles, skates or while running or walking. New trail safety standards recommended by federal and state transportation agencies call for such "S" curves anytime a view from the trail is restricted because of a road crossing being at an angle or on a curve.
The RRVT crossing of 265th Street, shown in these photos, is expected to be completed by this Friday, Sept. 9.
The crews from Dennhardt Construction and Hamilton Redi-Mix first paved the concrete crossing of the gravel road, then waited a few days. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, they returned to pave the “S” trail connectors on the north and south sides of the road.
The RRVT, as most people around this area know, is built on a former railroad right-of-way. When the trail was first built, in the late 1980s, construction standards for paved trails called for the trail to be built to the fence line, then crushed rock or gravel would be put on the trail bed to the edges of roads. Many trail users, especially bicyclists, had trouble with slipping and falling while negotiating the gravel crossings. The RRVT was originally 39 miles in length, from Waukee to Yale. But from 1989 to 1997, the trail was extended on north to Jefferson, then eventually east from Waukee to connect with the Clive Greenbelt and to connections with the Des Moines metro trail system.
From 2008 to 2013, a major addition to the RRVT was undertaken -- the 33-mile-long "north loop." New trail construction and safety standards were being used then, and concrete had become the favored surface becauses of the rising costs of petroleum-based asphalt and because of the longer life of concrete, thus requiring less expensive maintenance. Also, the trail crossings of gravel roads were also all paved.
Once the new loop opened with its paved road crossings, plans began to go back to the original RRVT route and pave its road crossings, too, as funding could be found by the Dallas, Guthrie and Greene County Conservation Boards, which own and operate the RRVT. Those funds have come from a variety of sources -- including state and federal government grants, contributions from businesses and organizations, and even donations by individual trail users.
The paving of the trail's nine remaining unpaved road crossings in Greene County was paid for with a grant of $124,000 last April from the Grow Greene County Gaming Corporation to the Greene County Conservation Board. That gaming corporation is the non-profit agency that holds the gaming license for the new Wild Rose Casino & Resort in Jefferson, and which also makes charitable donations of a certain portion of the casino's receipts.
Here’s a closer look, with video, of the work by the crews from Dennhardt Construction and Hamilton Redi-Mix, of Jefferson, as they pave the Raccoon River Valley Trail’s crossing of 265th Street at the curve north of Winkleman Switch. This video starts off looking to the north, then the view swings around to the west side of the crossing. The project is expected to be completed by Friday, Sept. 9.
With the completion this week of the paving on the gravel road just north of Winkleman Switch, all of the RRVT road crossings in Greene County will be done. Work continues on a few more of those on the RRVT's original "south loop" in Guthrie and Dallas Counties, but those are being completed as quickly as funding is secured.
The paving work has been thoughtfully done so that neither the roads nor the trail have even been closed for more than a few hours. Generally, vehicular traffic has been able to continue using those roads as construction happened, and trail users have generally been able to get off their bicycles and walk them around the work sites -- and hopefully have been thanking the construction workers while they've done that.