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First steps. On Tuesday the engineering firm we hired to do the initial survey of loop #18 came into town and we drove the loop together once to get our bearings before they set out to get all of their pictures and sign locations for the maps. I was told that they will be turning in a report in the next couple weeks. Once that is done we will be able to place our first sign order! We're planning on ordering enough signs to do about 4 loops to try and keep the costs down to a low roar. So... fingers crossed, we should be on track to get at least loop #18 signed this year. After all that has changed in this process I feel as though this is a huge win. Even if it takes a lot more time and money to do this project it will totally be worth every moment and every penny.

We won't yet be able to put up signs along the state highways until we legally make the trail a bike trail which may take some time. That process hasn't been done in any county in Wisconsin that we have been able to find so we may be the very first. We have the application in hand and will start to fill it out after the county makes up and agrees upon their new signing ordinance. At least all of these processes can happen simultaneously and the whole project can make ground rather than having to wait for each to be completed before the next can begin. I've quit trying to determine how long this will take to complete as it really doesn't matter. What matters is that it is moving forward and there is an end to this rainbow and most likely there will be a pot of gold at the end of it, the kind of gold that you might not be able to buy a candy bar with but certainly the kind that makes us richer as a community.

What I am really looking forward to is seeing all of these signs go up so the locals can see how big of a project this is. When the trails were completed it made the biggest bang that nobody heard. I talk to people from around here that have never heard of the Trempealeau Trails even though they have made headlines in so many magazines and newspapers around the country. Now these signs will start popping up absolutely everywhere you go around here and boy I tell you they will notice that! This community could really use a moral boost and I think this is just the right thing for us all to start feeling a little better about life.
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Please check out our page for the Arcadia Broiler Day Bike Tour. A challenging and scenic ride around Trempeleau and Buffalo county. Hope to see you there! ...

Things are progressing slowly through the various committees towards a signing ordinance that will effect any organization wanting to put signs up in Trempealeau County but ultimately make it easier for anyone in the future as we have to do all of the work now and they will just know everything already.

The Department of Transportation requires that bike route signs may be used only if; the bike route is an official, continuous route that is part of a national, local, or regional bike route system, the Region Traffic Engineer reviews the request, WisDOT determines the location of the signs, the community or county pays all upfront and maintenance costs, and that we put up map kiosks along the highways. All of this being said once we get all of these things done we can move forward and ultimately the state of Wisconsin will finally realize what is going on down here. There have been a lot of publications put out by the state and even our own county that don't even mention the Trempealeau Trails - but once these signs go up people are going to take notice :)

Oh yeah, the trail around Decorah, IA cost $1M /mile to go around the city so that's 11 miles times $1M/mile = holy doozey $$. I have to hand it to them; it took a team of people fundraising for over 6 years to raise the money to put in the trail. I'm just re-astounded that Walter Ordway created the Trempealeau Trails system with a grant for $35,000 from the DOT Roads Enhancement Funds and we now have over 500 miles of trails. Now to sign the trails its going to probably run close to 10x's the initial investment but thats still an attainable amount. Now I understand why Walt just shook his head and said someday maybe when I suggested that we sign all the routes back in 1999.

Today I am sending out a down payment for the engineers to come in and survey loop #18 so we can place our first sign order. I also have to go the the Land Management meeting this morning to speak on behalf of bicyclists in an effort to get a new road use agreement with the Rossa mine on Cty Hwy T where they would be required to put in bike lanes when they redo the roads to the mine. The mine is on loop #5 about 2.5 miles south of Hwy 95 East of Arcadia on Cty Hwy T. They are looking to increase their trucking from 170 to 200 trucks/day and from 150 acres permitted to 600 acres. We'll see how it all turns out.

Please get out and bike a few miles for me today as I will most likely be sitting in this meeting for a goodly portion of it :)
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Is there a Memorial Ride in Arcadia this year? It seems to be absent on their website? ...

I was just thinking about the costs of this signing project. No matter what this ends up costing to put up these signs we will have over 500 miles of trail surface. I had heard that Decorah, IA put in a paved path around the city for around 20 miles and it cost them over $2M to do so. I think we're getting a bargain :) ...

I hope my posts don't come off sounding like I'm not having any fun out here. No matter what it ends up costing or how long it takes I have been learning a great deal about how the system works and am sure that I will be able to use the experience later in life and in other projects. Trempealeau County could be the first county in Wisconsin to have designated bike routes which is a nice feather in the cap. Knowing what I do now about how much work it really is to get all of the needed permissions I doubt that anybody else is going to go through all of the trouble so we should be the only one for quite awhile :)

Currently my estimation on when the first route will get signed is late this season, probably towards the end of August. I still have to get the engineering people in here, order signs, and get the designation passed first through the county then approved by the state. We can start putting up signs as soon as we get them out on the county and township roads but the state highways will only allow signs to point to registered trails and I don't know how long that process takes from start to finish so the signs on the state highways will have to wait until then. This process will have to be repeated 18 times! At lease it should get a little more streamlined as we go. I still have to get permission from about 8 townships which requires getting on the agenda, driving there, waiting my turn, giving my speech, and finally they vote on the issue. At least now I have some answers to their questions unlike many of my first meetings I went to. I may have time to get a couple loops done this year but it all depends on how fast the county will want to move on this. Thankfully we do have enough money to get a proper start but a lot will have to depend on how much money the county is going to require us to put into bonds to cover future maintenance and replacement of the signs. If it is a reasonable sum then we may be able to get 6 or 7 done with the funds we currently have and if not then we'll just see where we end up.

I hope to see many of you on Saturday for the Hipbreaker!
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The meeting yesterday with Exec Finance went pretty much as expected. They asked a few questions, made a few comments, and voted to allow us to combine the two grants into one for the purpose of completing the sign project. So we now have $60,000 to put to that use. However that may not be enough yet.

At the next meeting with the Highway Dept. we met with two guys from the state who filled us in completely on the situation and its getting more and more expensive as we go. Apparently for the state to allow us to put up signs directing people to bike trails they have to be actually designated as bike trails and have an ordinance at the county level to do that. This starts a whole cascade of legal responsibilities to the county and townships. If the roads are also designated as bike paths those with higher car traffic will be required to be widened along the length and that includes bridges. What started out as a $30,000 plan will now cost millions over the lifetime of the trails. We also have to hire an engineer to drive each route and tell us how and where to place each sign to be legal and shield ourselves from liability. Oh boy that is really going to cost some money. Its really feeling like every time I go to a meeting it has babies; each one needing to be fed and clothed, and this one sure did.

We will also be responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the signs for the lifetime of the trail system which means we need to have money to put into a bond for the county which could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars. At least its only money right?

They recommended that we start with a couple loops, get them designated as bike trails, sign them, and get a feel for how it goes before moving on to the next. This is going to take a lot longer than I had ever anticipated but I am way to far down this rabbit hole to turn back now.

My next meeting is the 12th with the County Board to get a couple loops designated so we can begin the process of getting them surveyed, order the signs, call diggers hotline, and get our butts out there and put them up :)
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Is this ride on may 9, 2015
all paved?
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I just heard back from the Highway Dept. and we have two people from the state coming in on the 4th of May to sit down and discuss all of the details of the signs; color, size, placement, etc. so we should have enough finalized after that to place our first order! I've now been working on this for 2 years and I'm finally feeling like its about to take off :) ...

Trempealeau Trails Bicycle Association changed their profile picture. ...

I know all of you have been eagerly awaiting the news that the order has gone in for the signs and we have specific dates planned for putting them up. Fortunately I didn't make any specific promises as to when they would be installed because once again we have to wait for another meeting. Dave Lyga, head of the Highway Department, and I now have to meet with the State of Wisconsin to discuss our signs. There are an awful lot of specific details about signs that none of us knew about until we started digging into this project. It also looks as though we are going to have to put up bond money to the county for maintenance and replacement of the signs as only the highway department has permission to install the signs though we will be allowed to help out to save some money. The real kickers are going to be where we need to install a post as well as it will cost somewhere around $50 in labor and use of county equipment alone per sign plus diggers hotline will need to be contacted for each one. So we have to sit down and come up with some form of agreement as to how much money we need to put into that bond and how much money it is going to cost to put up the signs in labor and use of county equipment. The Highway Board does see our position about the increased costs and are willing to help us get some variances allowed for size and placement but it may be awhile before we can actually start ordering anything. You would think with that getting the funding for this project would have been the hard part but it's definitely the politics that is the hardest part. My next big meeting is May 4th when I go in front of the Trempealeau County Executive Finance Committee to discuss combining the Mountain bike trails grant into the signing grant to pay for all of this. Hopefully we can get at least a couple loops done yet this season :) ...

Just confirming that the Catfish Days bike tour is still happening. Thanks! ...

Well negotiations over the signs and funding seem to be going well. The highway department is willing to help out in a big way by helping to put up signs and let us have used posts where needed before having to purchase more. I also spoke with Dick Miller, our Chairman of the County Board, today and he doesn't see any problem combining the grants to pay for the increased costs associated with the larger signs. He is putting me on the agenda for the Executive Finance Committee meeting on May 4th to discuss this whole situation. My plan at this time is to sign as many loops as possible until we run out of money and then if we still need more go out and find it. I'll have a new quote on the signs soon and that will answer quite a few questions that I have. ...

This mornings meeting with the Trempealeau County Highway Committee went very well. I did my homework and had some packets prepared for everyone with notes highlighted. What came out of it is that we will be using customized signs permitted by the MUTCD, which is a document that tells you what signs to use and where to place them, which are also much larger than the ones I had designed so will be much more expensive. I haven't gotten the quotes needed to know exactly how much more it is going to cost but at least this way I won't have to worry about ever having to change them out unless stolen, wore out, or damaged. There is a possibility that I will have to move the money from the grant to make mountain bike paths into the funds for the sign project. This is unfortunate but if we spend the money wisely and do a good job at it I'm certain that we will find the resources at a later date for the mountain bike paths. In fact, I'm not certain at this point if that will be enough to sign the entire trail system but I will cross that bridge when I get to it. The final decisions have been postponed until a meeting on the 27th but overall I feel confident that everything will work just fine. One suggestion from Walter Ordway was that it would be cool if we could put the names of the loops up somewhere on the trails so we will be placing the green bicycle destination signs up along the state highways as shown in the bottom picture.

I think the biggest difference between what I was designing and what the MUTCD has as requirements is that I had mainly the perspective from bicyclists on the roads and the MUTCD is more concerned with motorists. With this in mind visibility is the name of the game so the signs are much bigger. That should make the trails safer to travel on bike and the turns easier to see.

I am really excited to get to work putting these signs up and it seems as though that date is getting closer and closer.
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