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This project is a paved multi-use (bicycle / pedestrian) path that will extend the Capital City Trail from Buckeye Road to Interstate 39 on the southeast side of Madison, generally following the corridor of the Union Pacific rail line. This segment is an important piece of the remaining 6-mile gap between the Capital City Trail and the Glacial Drumlin State Trail in the village of Cottage Grove. When complete it will become part of a continuous 140-mile path across the State. Completion of this gap is the goal of a 1996 Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Madison, City of Fitchburg, Dane County and the Wisconsin Department of natural Resources. This project is envisioned as a multi-phase effort that would initially use a combination of separate path and on-street route north of the railroad corridor. Ultimately additional land would be acquired either from the railroad or from properties south of the railroad to complete the separate off-street path.

Following are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Q: Could the path be located entirely on the south side of the tracks?
A: Not without obtaining easements within the rail corridor because there is not sufficient space between the rail right of way and an industrial building (Sani-Matic Inc.). Also, a main goal of the project is to serve the neighborhood north of the tracks. This would require additional legal crossings of the railroad, which can only be granted through petition to the Office of Commissioner of Railroads.

Q: Can the path be located to avoid removing trees?
A: We need to complete the survey and preliminary design to evaluate impacts on trees. In most locations it appears that trees will be removed at the edge of wooded areas leaving most of the woods intact. Every effort will be made to preserve mature trees.

Q: Will there be replacement planting where trees are removed.
A: Yes tree planting and other landscaping can be incorporated into the project, but new trees and plants will be small and will take time to replace mature vegetation.

Q: Will the project include fencing to protect privacy or security of adjacent properties.
A: City prefers not to construct fence along its paths and would do so only in very limited and unusual circumstances. Property owners can construct privacy fences on their property. Our considerable experience with paths in similar locations is that they actually reduce illegal and undesirable behavior as legitimate path users and visibility are deterrents.

Q: Will there be lighting along the path?
A: The need for and appropriateness of lighting are determined on a case-by-case basis. In general the City desires low-intensity lighting for major transportation-oriented paths such as this, but is flexible in areas that are sensitive to lighting.

Q: Could the Buckeye Road bike lanes be used instead of the path segments at the west end of the project?
A: Buckeye Road + Dondee Road could be an alternative to Segment 1, but would serve far fewer people. A large percentage of potential users of the bike path, especially younger, older and less experienced riders, would not consider the bike lanes on Buckeye to be a safe alternative.

Q: Is a connecting path to Helgesen Road planned as part of this project?
A: This connection (which we currently refer to as Segment 6) would be mostly on property we currently own. It would definitely be considered as a future project if the City can get permission for a new rail crossing in the vicinity of Dondee Road.

The total length of the initial phase project is 1.7 miles, consisting of 0.7 miles of separate path and 1.0 mile of on-street route. The ultimate project would be 1.6 miles of separate path.

Construction of Phase 2 only is currently planned for 2012. This phase will go from Leona Court to Sandlewood Circle, a length of about 0.3 mile. Segment 1 from E Buckeye Rd to Dondee Rd is on hold pending resolution of the railroad ownershop issue, discussed further below.

The total estimated construction cost for the initial phase is $340,000 not including engineering and contingencies. The ultimate project would require an additional $450,000. Real estate acquisition costs would be substantial but no estimate is available at this time.

Updated 1/26/12: A public Information Meeting was held on May 12, 2011 to provide information about the proposed project and get feedback from the neighborhood. Approximately 50 people attended, including Alder Jill Johnson, former Alder Judy Compton and several Neighborhood Association officers. Tony Fernandez from City Engineering presented current concepts for the location of the various segments of the project and probable phasing.

In general, the initial phase of the project would be north of the tracks, partly on separate path (Segment 1 from Buckeye Rd to Dondee Rd and Segment 2 from Leona Court to Sandlewood Court). Most of the initial phase would be on existing streets, primarily Sandlewood Circle, Pebblebrook Drive, S Thompson Drive and Wagon Trail.

The ultimate goal is a separate, off-street path for the entire length, located south of the tracks except for Segment 1. One major uncertainty is future ownership of the rail corridor, which could significantly change the path location in some segments. Many people expressed support for the path in general though several expressed serious concerns about specific portions of the route, particularly regarding removal of trees and loss of privacy for certain properties. 

The City of Madison has completed surveying and is proceeding with preliminary design of the path to enable plat preparation, appraisals and possible property acquisition in mid-2012. City is monitoring the rail corridor ownership issue and will not proceed with acquisition until this is clearer.

View the map of the Capital City Trail, Buckeye to I-39.

Public Comments
Have a question or comment on this project? Use the Public Comment Form.
Posted: 05/28/2015
Last year, it sounded like this project was moving forward, but there hasn't been any news in a year. I'd really like to see this segment between madison and cottage grove finished the 2 largest cities in wisconsin would finally be connected.
Are there any updates on the railway acquisition or the next steps in the construction process?

City Staff Response:
Thanks for the comment. Yes, this project is moving forward. For the segment from Buckeye Rd to Dondee Rd (Segment 1) the City has budgeted funds for easement acquisition and construction. We are still working with the Railroad for a small portion of the corridor, and expect to resolve that within the next 3 weeks. At that point we will hold a public inrformation meeting and begin property acquisition, with construction likely in 2016.

The segment from Vondron Rd to the Interstate (Segment 4-6) has received a grant through the WisDOT Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) for federal funds. Matching City funds are budgeted as well. This project is following a more complicated WisDOT process for environmental studies, land acquisition, design and review. But environmental studies and preliminary land acquisition activities are well under way with construction scheduled for 2017. 

Dane County Parks is the lead agency, in partnership with WDNR,  for the segment east of the Interstate to the Village of Cottage Grove.  We understand this is a high priority project for Dane County, but there have been challenges. Best to contact Dane County Parks directly for the status of that segment.

Note that we are doing a major overaul of our website with regard to street and bicycle projects. Project descriptions will be updated before this new site goes live, hopefully very soon.
ASF 5-28-15
Posted: 07/22/2014
Hello. Just read in the State Journal this morning that the rail line from Reedsburg to Cottage Grove is going to be bought from Union Pacific by the state. However, if you read Chris Rickert's article carefully, this does not mean that the rail line can be totally converted to a bike trail. Apparently, 5 miles out by Sauk City could be converted to a bike trail, but the rest will still be used by Wisconsin and Southern, the train owners. However, it seems to me that it will perhaps be easier for you to negotiate with the state rather than Union Pacific. Could you comment?

City Staff Response:
WisDOT is acquiring al of Union Pacific's lines in this area, but they will continue to be operated by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. We are not aware of any part of the line that would be available for a bike path. However, we are hoping that WisDOT will be more wiling to work with us on areas where we need some part of the rail corridor for path urposes.
Posted: 07/15/2014
Any updates on this project? It looked some progress would be made in Spring 2014. It would be great to connect Madison to the Glacial Drumlin Trail without having to go on Cottage Grove Road / BB.


City Staff Response:
We are making glacial progress (pun intended). The main hurdles continue to be obtaining an easement from Union Pacific Railroad and resolving a dispute between WDOT and WDNR over property acquisition procedures so that some federal funds can be released. Things are moving forward on both fronts and we hope to begin construction on some segments by next year. Stay tuned.
Posted: 02/28/2014
Could you please give an update on this project? I am anxiously awaiting this project to be worked on, but it "feels" like there is some kind of hangup/delay occurring.

City Staff Response:
Project ahs been somewhat on hold because it needs some property from the rail corridor and WisDOT is in the process of acquiring the rail corridor from Union Pacific Railroad. Beginning ths Spring we plan to move forwarad with this project as a top priority.
Posted: 01/10/2014
Any updates to this project?

City Staff Response:
Not at this time. Hope to update shortly.
Posted: 06/07/2013
Are there any updates on work towards completing the path between Buckeye and I39? I know the path between Leona Ct and Sandlewood has been completed, but haven't heard anything recently so I thought I would check.

City Staff Response:
The path from Buckeye Road to the Interstate is temporarily on hold pending outcome of the WisDOT's efforts to acquire the rail corridor from Union Pacific RR Co. Our preferred alternative for this path will require easements or permits from the rail corridor in some locations, and we cannotobtain these currently. We are monitoring the situation and expect some resolution in the next few months.
Posted: 01/02/2013
I would like to see the map of where this trail will go in Cottage Grove. How do I get that information?

City Staff Response:
Dane County Parks is the lead agency on this project. City is partnering on the west end of this path near I-39. For informatin about the east end (at Village of Cottage Grove) contact Mr. Chris James of Dane Count Parks at 224-3763  or email at
Posted: 09/10/2012
Just wondering what the status of this project is. Did you obtain an easement next to the rail line? When will construction begin?

City Staff Response:
We have not yet obtained railroad eaements, pending WisDOT acquisition of the rail corridor from Union Pacific RR.  We are about to construct a small segment of the path on City-owned property from Leona Court to Sandlewood Circle, which will be completed late this year or early in 2013.
Posted: 01/31/2012
Is there a map of this project available with the segments labelled that you could link to from this page? That would be very helpful in trying to decipher the route segments listed on this page.

City Staff Response:
Thanks for the comment.  A map has been added to the project description.
Posted: 01/26/2012
Please provide an update on this project as of January 26, 2012.

City Staff Response:
Thanks for the reminder.  Project information  has been updated and slightly reorganized as of 1/26/12