• Posted May 11, 2021

Frequent flood events have degraded the Bill Riley Trail Railroad Underpass to the point that it must be fully reconstructed.

UPDATE 6/4/21 5:00pm - AXIOS posted an updated : #3. Getting around Water Works trail closure with some alternate detours (scroll down to #3)

If you've ridden the Bill Riley Trail you've experienced the tight corner under the railroad bridge and seen the many closures over the years due to flooding, mud, slick trails etc.

Well the good news is that this part of the trail is getting fixed !! The bad news is that the trail will be closed during some high usage months.

This is the price of progress.

Trail Closure Location

  • From the Northwest - The trail will be closed where the Bill Riley Trail meets the Walnut Creek Trail (note - You can still get to the Walnut Creek Trail from Ashworth Pool on the Bill Riley Trail)
  • From the Southeast - The trail will be closed at the popular Raccoon River Bridge in Waterworks Park right off the park roadway

Trail Closure Duration

The trail is expected to be closed from May 31st to late July and [possible mid-August depending on weather and unforeseen issues.

Advance notice signs will be placed on the trail on May 10th and be switched out with permanent "Trail Closed" signs when the project breaks ground.

Trail Improvements

The new flood-resilient design will raise the trail elevation to reduce flooding and the underpass will be protected by steel sheet pile and rip rap armoring. The trail alignment will be smoothed for better visibility and a new railing will be installed for improved safety overall.

The improvements includes repairing the Bill Riley Trail at the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge including clearing and grubbing, bank grading and shaping, rip rap, steel sheet pile, 6-inch Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) pavement, chain line fences, seeding, erosion control, restoration and miscellaneous associated working including clean-up


Detours are posted when feasible. Unfortunately there is not an easy detour without taking many roadways South of Grand. This is normal practice for Des Moines Parks and Recreation and limits the liability of providing an on-street detour for trail closures.

Avid cyclists will find road routes and others will follow.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation realizes this is a highly used corridor for commuting and recreation. This project is very complex and has been in the works for years and has been delayed due to railroad permitting. We hope trail users can understand that this short-term closure (6-9 weeks) and improvement is needed for long-term gains via fewer flood closures and staff time to close, clean, and reopen the underpass.

PLEASE do not bypass or move the trail closure signs or climb the fencing. Let the contractor work on the trail improvements and not trespassers or vandalism regardless of the construction hours.

The goal is to break ground and repair the trail as soon as possible. Again, this is the price of progress,

Why is the Raccoon River Bridge closed ?

The Raccoon River Bridge will be closed to allow construction equipment needing use of the trail and park corridor to the Railroad Bridge where the repairs will take place. While the construction equipment is not planned to come near the Raccoon River Bridge, the bridge was strategically chosen to ensure full closure through the segments of the park that will be affected by construction. This also allows construction equipment to be staged to ensure trail repairs happen as quickly as possible.


Check the Road and Trail Closures map to see which trails may be closed.

“Know before You Go” with our text message notification service. Text DSMTRAILS to 84483 to receive trail updates from Des Moines Parks and Recreation.

BIKEIOWA will post updates to the Bill Riley Trail Portal and there may be updates on the Bill Riley Facebook Page or Des Moines Parks and Recreation Facebook Page.

See the comments on our Facebook Post.

Question and Concerns?

Contact Des Moines Parks and Recreation
1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway
Des Moines, Iowa 50317

Customer Service
Phone: (515) 237-1386

THANK YOU for your patience during the construction period.

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