The Boulder City Council voted Tuesday to authorize the completion of the IBM Connector, a 0.6-mile trail that is four years in the making.
The IBM Connector Trail will link the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Cottontail Trail with the Boulder Reservoir trail system. Authorities call it a key trail in the system, improving connectivity and safety for bicycles, pedestrians and even leashed dogs traveling east and west across state Highway 119, the busy roadway linking Boulder and Longmont. The trail was approved for construction through a Community Environmental Assessment Process in 2008, but because it cuts through several different ownerships, the completion process has been lengthy. The city council’s vote on Tuesday authorized the City Manager to sign an Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Boulder and Boulder County, effectively guaranteeing the trail’s completion.
“I just hope we don’t have a lot of trail segments that are this challenging,” said Tim Plass, a city council member.
The 0.6-mile trail will pass through six different property types. It starts at the OSMP Cottontail Trail on open space land, crosses City of Boulder property and then dips underneath a bridge managed by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. It then winds underneath Highway 119, managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and crosses IBM property over which OSMP has a conservation easement. The trail finally crosses 63rd Street, managed by the city, before connecting with the Boulder Reservoir trails. It will also provide a link for Gunbarrel residents to the city’s parks and trails.
Bringing BNSF Railway Company on board has been critical to moving the IBM Connector closer to completion. A railroad bridge will have to be repaired to meet safety standards, which means BNSF will have to temporarily interrupt its service.
“The County has spent quite a bit of time dealing with Burlington Northern Santa Fe to get their authorization, permission, licenses – all that’s necessary to replace that bridge,” said Jim Reeder, OSMP Division Manager.
Bridge repairs will be paid for by the federal and county funds financing the IBM Connector trail. Mike Patton, Director of OSMP, said that persistence was key in dealing with BNSF.
“I wouldn’t say they they’ve softened any, but it doesn’t take two years to get a return phone call anymore,” Patton said. “And we are asking a lot of them.”
Boulder City Council members expressed strong support for the signing of the Intergovernmental Agreement and completion of the trail, a missing link in the Longmont-to-Boulder Trail Project.
“Regional trail connections is one of our open space priorities,” said KC Becker, a member of city council, shortly before the unanimous vote was cast. “It makes things a lot safer, and I just think it’s a real achievement.”
The IBM Connector is scheduled for completion in 2013. Reeder and Patton foresee no further delays.