Construction of a key extension of the Milwaukee County Oak Leaf Trail – a link that will connect the lakefront to the Interurban Trail – will be pushed back to spring, according to county parks officials.

Funding for the 3.1-mile pathway from Estabrook Park north to Sydney Place was awarded federal grants in 2009 and 2010, but the negotiations to acquire the rail corridor from Union Pacific Railroad have yet to be completed. The total cost is estimated to be roughly $5.3 million.

Under the latest schedule, design work on the project will be finished this fall and the pathway will be built in 2015.

The work will complete an off-street pathway from the Milwaukee Art Museum to Brown Deer and the southern point of the Ozaukee County Interurban Trail. Currently, trail users have to follow local streets from the north side of Estabrook Park and reconnect to the off-street path just south of Brown Deer Park.

Foot and bicycle traffic on the Oak Leaf Trail in that suburban Milwaukee area averages roughly 1,790 users per day, according to fresh traffic counts just south of Estabrook Park. New traffic counters installed this summer tallied 41,000 users from July 28 to August 20, according to Guy Smith, chief of operations for the Milwaukee County Parks.

Money generated from the Oak Leaf Discovery Tour and the Milwaukee County Park People paid for the counters that will be deployed throughout the nearly 100 miles of Oak Leaf Trail.

“For planning purposes, it can give us ideas where the heaviest use is,” Smith said.

Related work
Two federal grants awarded by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation earlier this month will be used to improve bike path connections near the Milwaukee Henry Maier Festival grounds and The Rock Sports Complex in the southwest corner of the county.

The Hank Aaron State Trail and the Oak Leaf Trail converge near the Summerfest main gate and the mix of signage and markings can be confusing. The $152,000 grant will be used by the county and city planners to develop a uniform system of trail markings and wayfinding.

A larger grant, $860,672, will be spent on improving the Oak Leaf Trail segments near South 76th Street and West Rawson Avenue, where the pathway mixes off-street segments and on-street connections.

Tom Held writes the Active Pursuit blog for Silent Sports.