Russ von Koch and Kim Schappert shared a vision. They saw a Moab that was safe for cyclists. The two have worked toward building an alternative transportation system that would allow pedestrians and cyclists to travel without the danger of being in traffic.
In this quest a pedestrian bridge was built over the Colorado River. Eight and half miles of trail was paved from the Colorado River to Arches National Park and beyond. Cyclists can now safely ride through Moab Canyon to connect to a plethora of mountain bike trails, or access the bike lane at State Route 313 to Dead Horse Point State Park or Canyonlands National Park. The City of Moab followed suit and built a one-mile concrete path from town toward the Colorado River bridge.
The transit hub at State Route 128, however, is the missing piece to a very big puzzle. It will connect the city’s path to the Lion’s Park trail hub giving cyclists and pedestrians ten and a half miles of paved trail that never crosses traffic.
To create the transit hub 50,000 cubic yards of rock will be removed from the hillside south of SR 128. There will be 43 parking spaces for people to park their car and get on their bike. There will be a 200-foot loading and unloading area for shuttle vehicles and tour operators. There will be restrooms. And, maybe most importantly, there will be a 60-foot-long pedestrian and bike underpass to provide safe passage under State Route 128 from the transit hub to the Lions Park Trail Hub.
“The underpass will facilitate free movement,” said Schappert, director of Moab Trails Alliance.
Von Koch, who recently retired from the Bureau of Land Management, had a memorable bike ride from the Colorado River bridge to Moab.
He was one of the torchbearers for the 2002 Olympics. He did a pre-run to test the route. In some places the shoulder wasn’t more than six inches wide. Cars sped by.
“It was not safe,” von Koch said. “And I knew most people didn’t have the luxury of a motorcade to keep them safe.”
When the underpass is in place, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel from Moab to State Route 313 without ever having to cross or share a road with cars.
“With this new path, a person can ride from their hotel, down that trail and across the bridge,” said Grand County councilman Chris Baird.
This project is seen as a boon to the tourist industry.
“Nearly 50 percent of Grand County jobs are directly tied to recreation and tourism services, and a strong percentage of the other half of Grand County jobs are indirectly related to recreation,” Baird said. “Without developed trails our recreational assets would be limited to river running and scenic driving. Needless to say, trails form the backbone of the recreational assets that Grand County markets to the world.”
The North Moab Recreation Transportation System will be a $20 million project once the transit hub and the elevated path along State Route 128 to Negro Bill Canyon is completed in 2013.
Most of it was paid by federal grants. Some of it was incorporated into the Utah Department of Transportation plan. Some of it came as a match from Grand County and the City of Moab for grants received.
Schappert worked with the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program to find nearly $9.2 million to build the transit hub and the elevated path along State Route 128 to Negro Bill Canyon.
Congress set this money aside specifically for alternative transportation projects. It does not take money away from federal or state highway or road projects. It is intended to provide money for alternative transportation projects that connect communities to public lands.
“Kim has done a wonderful job in pulling this together,” von Koch said.
He said the grant process was a competitive one, as proposed projects from across the country were seeking the same money. The funding did not come in one lump sum, but over several years.
Schappert’s goal is move people safely.
“We want to get people from town into Arches and beyond,” Schappert said.
A few years ago she had a couple of men from Poland stay at her campground, Up the Creek.
“They were asking ‘how do we get to the park’, ‘where’s the bus?’, ‘what do you mean there is no bus?’ I loaded them into the car and took them. They were so grateful,” Schappert said. “But now they could get a bike and ride all the way to Arches. Or once the hub is completed, they could go to the transit hub and get a shuttle into Arches.”
Two transportation scholars are now working on the project. One is hired by Arches National Park, the other by the Bureau of Land Management. Both are looking at ways to incorporate the transit hub into the alternative transportation system.
One of the hopes of the transit hub is to increase the use of shuttles to the national parks, to trail heads and to various recreational opportunities north of Moab. The national park transportation scholar is now trying to figure out what kind of pilot program is needed in Arches for mass transit.
“We don’t want to own our own equipment,” Schappert said, referring to Grand County and Trail Mix. “We’d prefer to increase the bottom line of local businesses, to have them be able to run their own vehicles, to be able to expand their businesses.”
Construction should begin soon after Labor Day.
“It’s going to be safer for everybody: Cars, bikes and people.” Schappert said.
The transit hub will have a parking lot, shade shelter and restrooms. A trail from the city’s concrete path will wrap around the hub to the underpass at Highway 128. It will meet close to the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Colorado River.