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Trail connecting Council Bluffs, Omaha downtowns making headway

The 14-foot-wide pedestrian and bike trail will run from 35th to 16th streets when it’s completed at the end of next year.
Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:43 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The first phase of a new major corridor that travels through downtown Council Bluffs and connects to downtown Omaha is nearly complete.

The FIRST AVE project broke ground on Earth Day this year, fitting its initiative to promote forms of transportation through Council Bluffs other than traveling by car.

“This will make a very critical connection for our metro,” says Brandon Garrett, the Community Development Director for the city of Council Bluffs. “This will be the way you can get from the Bob Kerry bridge and downtown Omaha through Council Bluffs and to downtown Council Bluffs.”

The 14-foot-wide pedestrian and bike trail will run from 35th to 16th streets when it’s completed at the end of next year. Phase one constructed the trail from 35th street to 25th street. All that’s left to do is landscaping.

While offering a new way to cross town, the trail also connects the thousands of residents who live near it easier access to other forms of transportation, like city buses.

“About 30% of Council Bluffs’ population live within a half-mile of the FIRST AVE trail, so we’re hoping they’ll take advantage of commuting to work or to school or the grocery store, or even a coffee shop for a cup of coffee,” says the city’s communications director, Ashley Kruse.

The trail runs between West Broadway and 2nd Avenue, and actually hosts a historic link.

“When the city was first platted back in the 1800s, they platted a street here called First Avenue but that street was never constructed because the railroad built tracks,” Garrett says.

When FIRST AVE is completed, the trail will pay tribute to its industrial past through special furnishings.

It’s also part of a national trail, the Great American Rail Trail, which begins in Washington D.C., goes through Council Bluffs to the Bob Kerry bridge, and travels across Nebraska, ending in Washington state. Right now, the trail is about 53% complete.

Kruse and Garrett say it will be much more than just a trail - it will offer recreation, transportation, and art.

“The plazas that are every three or four blocks will include shade structures, seating areas, bike parking, probably Heartland BCycle stations, and pedestals for future installations of art,” Garret says. “By the position of where the trail is, FIRST AVE is basically the backside of a lot of buildings that face West Broadway, so one of the things we’d like to see eventually, is a mural program that would have murals along the backs of these buildings.”

“It really sets ourselves apart from other people in the area by being a premiere trail, there’s lighting and landscaping and the plazas and open green space, more of a linear park than an actual trail,” Kruse adds.

“It’s exciting to really see it take shape, it’s not officially open, there’s still active construction at the plazas, however, people are out there using it today, walking, biking jogging, really excited to use that trail and I think everyone knows it a world-class trail before it’s even open,” Garrett says.

Phase two of the project is expected to begin this coming spring and they hope to see it completed by October.

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