University Common bike path extension planned

Construction is scheduled to begin next spring on an extension of the University Common bike path that now runs along Johnston Street and Cajundome Boulevard, city-parish planners and university officials said Tuesday.

The new construction will add 1.25 miles of bike paths, extending the existing 2-mile path through Youth Park and into the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s main campus.

The work, funded with a $450,000 federal grant and about $50,000 from the university, is expected to completed by fall 2014, said Joey Benoit, a planner with city-parish government.

The first 2-mile phase of the University Common bike path opened in 2011 and stretches from Eraste Landry Road down Cajundome Boulevard to Johnston Street, traveling through the University Research Park and past the Cajundome and the ULL athletics complex.

The planned extension will go from Johnston Street onto St. Michael Street, then onto St. Julien Avenue and across Johnston Street into Youth Park, where a bridge will be built across the St. John Coulee to take the path into ULL’s main campus.

Benoit said special “bike detectors” will be used where the bike path crosses Johnston Street to signal that bicyclists are waiting for a traffic signal change to cross the four-lane road.

“The bike detectors are sensitive enough to recognize bikes which would normally go unnoticed by car detectors,” he said.

Some portions of new route will be a standalone bike path and other sections will be along existing roadways, Benoit said.

Plans also call for either new bike lanes or shared roadways markings along Reinhardt Drive west of the existing University Common bike path.

City-parish planner Jennifer Severson said a separate bike trail is in the works that will travel along Souvenir Gate and other roads to connect the University Common path to Parc Sans Souci downtown, where bicyclists could then connect to the new Atakapa-Ishak Trail.

The Atakapa-Ishak Trail runs from downtown to Beaver Park next to the Vermilion River.

The Souvenir Gate Trail is part of a larger project that also includes a bike trail connecting downtown to Pontiac Point and another trail running from near Pontiac Point along Orange Street to Heymann Park.

The trails will not be standalone bike ways, like University Common path, but will use marked bike lanes and shared roadway markings along existing streets.

Construction of those trails is expected to begin later this year or early next year, Severson said.

The trails are part of an ongoing effort by city-parish planners to build a network of bike paths throughout the city.