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The Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail is part of two developing Illinois initiatives: the Route 66 Trail from Chicago to St. Louis, loosely following the historic highway; and the Illinois Traction System (ITS) Trail from Springfield to St. Louis, following the large trolley network that once existed in central Illinois.
In Macoupin County, the original alignment of Route 66 was along present-day State Route 4, which connects Benld and Gillespie. Even before that, the two were connected by the Illinois Traction System, an electric-powered interurban railway. The Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail was built where the tracks of that system once ran, as was the Interurban Trail farther north between Springfield and Chatham.
Benld and Gillespie were developed as coal mining communities, although the trail’s route through open fields might remind you more of the rich farming heritage of other parts of Illinois. Eventually, plans call for the trail to be extended south to Staunton, where it will link with the northern end of the Madison County Transit Quercus Grove Trail, and on west across Madison County toward St. Louis.
To access the Benld-Gillespie Bike Trail in Benld, take Exit 44 off I-55 and turn west onto State Route 138. Proceed 3.7 miles onto E. Central Avenue in downtown Benld. Turn right onto Trolley Street and continue 3 blocks to Park Avenue. Turn right onto Park Avenue; immediately to the left is parking and access to the southern end of the trail.
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