By Heather Pape
La Habra Journal
The city of La Habra and surrounding areas will establish bike trails in the place of railroad tracks, but the project may take years to fund.
In the city council meeting on May 5, LH council members approved a plan to create a circuit of bike trails in the easement that belongs to the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The bike path will extend about three miles from the west city limits to the east city limits along the Union Pacific Railroad line, and from west of Beach Boulevard to east of Palm Street. This project is part of a larger, regional plan to have an interconnected system of bike trails for the communities of La Habra, Whittier and Brea to enjoy. Most sections of the railroad have been inactive for years, with the only exception being a small chunk of the rails that are still used to deliver to a plastic company on Berry Street in Brea.
Councilman Jim Gomez explained La Habra has a community of cyclists who have been requesting more opportunities for biking in the area for years, and this project poses as a good solution for those desires.
“For a number of years there have been residents in the community who are bike enthusiasts that have always wanted to have a bike trail that goes through La Habra,” Gomez said.
The trail will benefit those who bike for fun as well as those who trek across the cities for their commute. The city of La Habra wants cyclists to be able to ride, but they also want them to be able to ride safely.
According to city officials, one of the main reasons for this project is to have another path for bikers to ride, instead of roaming down busy streets.
“It will promote another way for cyclists to traverse the city off street,” said City Engineer Chris Johansen. “We will just have to improve the crossings where the trail crosses some of our major streets such as Euclid, Beach and Harbor, and we’re planning to do signals there so cyclists can push a button and activate the signal so they can cross the street safely.”
Gomez explained that although the engineering plans have been completed, funding the project may take years.
“We still need to get approximately $10 million of funding, so we are going to have to lobby the state, county, and grant funding to fund the project,” Gomez said. “We have approved engineering reports to lay out how the bike plan will look and where it will run through, but we still need the funding part. Ten million dollars is a lot of money.”
Johansen guesses that $10 million may even be an underestimation. Funding is the biggest obstacle to the completion of this project, not just in La Habra, but also in Whittier and Brea. Johansen says that Brea and Whittier have not been able to buy the easement up to the city limits of La Habra yet, and that is a barrier to the goal of connectivity.
“Most cyclists don’t just stay within their own city boundaries—they go city to city,” Johansen said. “This is part of a bigger picture to try to get the trail to go from the Santa Ana River all the way over to the San Gabriel River. [We] really want the connectivity between the cities to happen so we have a regional trail system.”
Despite the current lack of funding, city officials are hopeful for its outcome.
“It’s a project that is going to take some time,” Johansen stated. “It’s not going to happen overnight. But this is the first step in a long process to deal with connecting this trail up with other cities. A regional system like this just takes some time, but [La Habra] has started the process and we are looking forward to waking up our trails with other agencies, with Brea and with Whittier.”