Have you ever biked to downtown Chicago, or to the Chicago lakefront, from the Niles, Park Ridge or Morton Grove area?
It's challenging because the North Branch Bicycle Trail, the longest linear trail in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County's system, ends at Devon and Caldwell, leaving you to navigate the streets. You'll need a map and some luck, because the streets are crowded.
Now, the Forest Preserve District has announced it is extending the trail three miles southward, as far as the Irene Hernandez Woods at Foster and Kostner, and that cyclists can then get onto City of Chicago on-street bike lanes to reach the Chicago lakefront trail.
The map of Chicago bike lanes provides various ways to get to the lakefront trail or to downtown Chicago.
A forest preserve district statement said the project is funded by the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) and and Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Program.
The trail, which runs through Niles and Morton Grove and ends, at its northern point, at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, is also being extended .8 mile on the north end. Once completed, it will connect to the Greenway Trail in Lake County, as well as to Metra and PACE lines.
Construction is expected to start this summer, according to the district, and be completed by 2014.
“We are leveraging federal grants to make smart investments in our County’s trail system,” Forest Preserve District of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “These projects will enhance regional connectivity, provide new opportunities for recreation and commuting, drive tourism and economic development, and increase livability and public safety.”
The Forest Preserve District's statement also said improvements to the trail system would be made, including bridge and underpass repairs, reconstruction and repairs of paved and unpaved trails, and trail crossing safety improvements. The loop trails and District-wide improvements are funded through the Forest Preserve District’s 2012 bond issue.
Additionally, the district is also set to begin a trail master planning process in 2013. The master plan will identify new trailhead locations, determine sites for bike rental and other concessions, and enhance trail signage. That project is supported with technical assistance from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.