The Nebraska Department of Transportation has awarded the City of Fremont a 2023 Transportation Alternatives Program grant for the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley (FEVR) Rail to Trail project. The project will convert a portion of the former Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad corridor into a paved trail for pedestrians, bicyclists and other nonmotorized transportation users.
The City of Fremont applied for federal assistance under the Transportation Alternatives Program in partnership with the FEVR Rail to Trail Foundation. The Fremont Northern LLC transferred the land to the FEVR Rail to Trail Foundation in late 2021. Creation of the FEVR Rail to Trail was identified as a short-term vision project in the city’s Long-Range Transportation Plan, approved by council last October.
"This Transportation Alternatives Program federal grant will allow the City of Fremont and the FEVR Rail to Trail Foundation to transform this unused track into one of the premier trails in eastern Nebraska,” said Mayor Joey Spellerberg. “This trail will help promote tourism and add to the quality of life for our residents. I could not be more excited about the new FEVR Trail."
City grant coordinator, Angie Olson, said the project is estimated at just over $2.2 million and requires a 20% match. The trail will connect to the existing Fremont trail system at Somers Street and run northeast to Luther Road, just south of the Luther Road/Highway 275 intersection. The FEVR Rail to Trail project also includes clean-up and tree removal, construction of a paved 2.8-mile long, 10-foot wide trail and the conversion of two bridges, including installation of decking, insulation and handrails.
The FEVR Rail to Trail Foundation hopes to convert the full 17-mile abandoned rail line in the future, connecting Fremont to the town of Hooper.
“This project will go a long way to connecting north Fremont and the existing city bike path with east Fremont and the newly constructed Rawhide path,” said Stan Darling, President of the FEVR Rail to Trail Foundation. “With these funds now available for the Fremont segment of the trail, we can adjust plans for the remainder of the trail from Hwy 275 through Nickerson to Hwy 77, to meet up with the Hooper segment, already in the cleanup and grading stage.”
Director of Public Works, Justin Zetterman, will manage the project and said once the grant paperwork is in place a project start date will be determined. Zetterman said his department is “currently seeking an Assistant Director of Public Works and the timing of hiring this individual may also factor in to the project kick-off.”
According to the Fremont & Elkhorn Valley website, the Fremont and Elkhorn Valley Railroad was constructed in 1869, and until the mid-1980's served as the gateway route for the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad to northern Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota.
In 1986, the FEVR served as a heritage railroad in Fremont, connecting Fremont to Hooper and included runs by the Pathfinder Dinner Train. The Fremont Dinner Train also used the track from 1988 until the railways closure in 2012.