Delores Craig can't wait until she can hop aboard her bicycle and ride, smoothly and peacefully, from her office at Wichita State University to spots in downtown Wichita.
"It isn't always fun to be out there dodging cars," said Craig, a professor of criminal justice.
Thanks to a $2.3 million federal grant awarded to the city of Wichita this week, she and other cyclists, walkers, and joggers won't have to wait too much longer.
The Redbud Bike Trail, which will extend from the I-135 bike path at Murdock northeast to the WSU campus at 17th and Oliver, is expected to be complete by summer 2012.
"It's an excellent idea, and it's been a long time coming," said Maxine Bostic, president of the nearby Kenmar Neighborhood Association.
"It's good for health. It's good for safety. It's good for connectivity," she said. "I'm sure a number of those in our community will use it."
The 2.5-mile Redbud trail will be built along the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad corridor. It will feature a 10-foot-wide concrete path, a pedestrian bridge crossing the I-135 canal and improvements to Piatt, Grove and Green Streets where the streets intersect the trail.
The project was selected for federal funding through the Kansas Department of Transportation's enhancement program. More than 50 applications were submitted to the state for consideration.
"This is just so exciting, because that is an important corridor," said Craig, who regularly bikes from her home near 37th North and Woodlawn to her office at WSU.
The new bike path "could be such a wonderful shot in the arm" for nearby neighborhoods, she said. "To have a safe place where young people can get outside and ride or walk or jog — that's a big deal."
Four years ago, the city of Wichita banked the abandoned railroad corridor for use as a bike path.
Earlier this year, officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said soil beneath the old railroad contained hazardous contaminants. The materials could either be removed or capped with an approved material such as a concrete bike path, officials said, and the state offered a $200,000 cleanup grant for the project.
"We are all very excited. It is going to enhance the community," said City Council member Lavonta Williams, who represents the district where the new bike path will go.
"It's another avenue for the community to stay healthy," said Williams, a former P.E. teacher. "I see people out walking, riding, getting out and enjoying this path on a nice spring or fall or summer evening. I just see great usage out of this."
This week's announcement pleased neighbors and fitness advocates, who have pushed for years for the city to link the I-135 bike path network with WSU and other portions of northeast Wichita. The trail will pass near six city parks.
"It's certainly another big step in a lot of moves the city has made to help bicyclists," said Craig, the WSU professor. "I think Wichita is really moving toward being much more bike-friendly."