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Multi-Use Trails Continue to Connect Destination Hubs

The multi-use recreational trail system in Iowa is one of the crown jewels of the state. Nowhere is the trail system more extensive than in the Des Moines metro area. The majority of the communities immediately surrounding Des Moines have at least one trail system within their boundaries. Some have numerous trail spurs that branch off and connect to local destinations. Like many of these communities, the City of Altoona continues to add to its trail network to provide the recreational amenities that attract people looking to relocate and improve the quality of life for residents.

The Gay Lea Wilson Trail is one of the primary trails in Altoona, entering on the southwest side of the city. At that point, the trail turns into the Vern Willey II Trail, named for the city’s long-time community services director. The City of Altoona leaders partnered with Snyder & Associates to extend the trail network where the Vern Willey II Trail terminates, just north of 1st Street East. This new trail section resumes as the Gay Lea Wilson Trail and continues to the north side of the city.

Existing Infrastructure and Topographic Challenges

As design work began on this new, 1.75-mile trail section, it was clear that numerous challenges would need to be addressed to fit the trail into the existing landscape. Extending from the Vern Willey II Trail, the new, 12’-wide HMA trail section initially follows the Iowa Interstate Railroad Line to the northeast. As the trail approaches NE 54th Avenue, however, the design team had to position the trail while accounting for the city’s plans for future roadway reconstruction in the area.

After an at-grade crossing at NE 54th Avenue, the trail turns north and follows NE 80th Street towards the rail line. Crossing the elevated railroad tracks presented another challenge in the trail design. The Iowa Interstate viaduct over NE 80th Street was very narrow and didn’t provide much room for adding the trail. Additionally, an existing triple box culvert passed underneath the roadway and railroad tracks and had to be avoided.

road passing under a railroad bridge

The trail passes under the Iowa Interstate Railroad viaduct along NE 80th Street.

The design team was able to work within the constraints of the viaduct and placed the new trail section next to the roadway with a concrete barrier rail separating the two. Careful grading work avoided disturbing the box culvert, reducing overall project costs.

From the viaduct, the trail generally follows Mud Creek to the north. Floodplain and wetland considerations required the design team to perform wetland and stream delineations. The multidisciplinary functionality of Snyder & Associates allowed these services to be performed by our in-house professionals.

Streambank stabilization efforts were also necessary along the banks of the Mud Creek oxbows to alleviate future erosion and loss of trail access. The trail alignment was carefully designed to minimize impacts and where unavoidable, these mitigation measures were taken.

For now, the trail ends at Interstate 80. As land and funds become available, plans call for extending the trail north of the interstate to link up with the Chichaqua Valley Trail near Bondurant. The careful planning by the Snyder & Associates team will allow for the seamless continuation of future trail expansion.