A plan to connect some of the city's neighborhoods, key destination points and the rail system through a 5 1/2-mile, shared-use pathway got closer to reality recently when the city received a $1 million grant from the state's Department of Transportation.
The city will use money to complete the third and final phase of a scenic bicycle and pedestrian path, one that city officials, bicycle enthusiasts and neighborhood leaders hope one day will be part of a bike-train network.
Once completed, El Rio Trail — which starts at Glades Road, just east of Florida Atlantic University — will connect the university and Palm Beach Community College with residential communities, the planned de Hoernle Park on the former IBM site, the Tri-Rail Station, the Arvida Park of Commerce, Peninsula Corporate Center, Beacon Square and Yamato Scrub.
"It's kind of a cool link because it connects the Tri-Rail station to FAU so if a student or employee gets off at the station, they can take the trail down to FAU instead of getting on a bus," Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said. "It's not a bad walk. It's much easier going under Interstate 95 than having to worry about crossing through traffic."
The city already has designed the project and is ready to begin construction.
The 12-foot-wide trail will continue alongside the El Rio Canal from Yamato Road north to the Lake Worth Drainage Canal, designated the L-40, just north of Clint Moore Road.
Construction workers recently completed phase two, which started where the first phase ended, just under a mile from Spanish River Boulevard north to Yamato Road.
Phase two, which cost $1.7 million, includes a pedestrian bridge that allows access to the Tri-Rail station at Yamato Road.
The path, which could be used by employees from a number of companies on both sides of the city, would give workers a healthy, nonpolluting means to get safely to work, said Steven Sepia, who works at Beacon Square in the city's northwest end.
"This is going to be a beautiful addition to this city when it's all done," said Sepia, as he took a short respite on the decorative seating along the trail recently. "Just imagine going from home, on the east side, to work without having to fight my way through Glades Road traffic."
Making it easier for people to bicycle makes sense on a number of levels, said Richard Cohen, owner of All Bicycles in Deerfield Beach.
From an ecological and economical standpoint, a bike trail could reduce traffic congestion, improve parking and decrease the use of fossil fuels, he said.
"Absolutely, 150 percent," Cohen said. "Based upon just getting people not being in cars we're going to reduce the number of cars on the streets. And employers would see more timely employees rather than employees who had to fight their way through traffic jams."
C. Ron Allen can be reached at email@example.com or 561-243-6611.