- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Construction has begun on a 17-mile long bike trail that will link three southeast Iowa communities.

The Daily Nonpareil (https://bit.ly/2rmNwEu ) reported that work began Saturday on the first segment of the Railroad Highway Multi-Use Trail. The trail is expected to link Council Bluffs, Underwood and Neola.

The nearly 2-mile long section is scheduled to be completed this year, said Brian Shea, chairman of the Pottawattamie County Trails Association.

“This will be the first of many trails across southwest Iowa, Iowa and even other states,” he said. “We hope to get out to Underwood sometime next year and, shortly after, to Neola.”

The trail is meant to provide bicyclists a safe place away from traffic, said Underwood Deputy City Clerk Jan Ehrens.

The trail will also promote outdoor fitness and boost economic development by drawing people from big cities to smaller towns, said Underwood Mayor Denny Bardsley.

Brian Leaders is with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. He said more than $4 million has been raised for the trail, which will be part of a larger network of trails that will cover about 100 miles. The Railroad Highway trail will be concrete, but other trails in the network are planned to be soft-surface paths.

The Iowa West Foundation gave a $1.1 million grant for the trail, Shea said. Federal and state recreation grants brought in another $1 million. Other contributions include $425,000 from the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, $38,000 from Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection program and $60,000 from the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors, as well as public contributions.

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Information from: The Daily Nonpareil, https://www.nonpareilonline.com

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