Join Me for the Very First (Legal) Ride on the North Branch Trail Extension

Toni Preckwinkle and other officials cut the ribbon on the trail this afternoon at Thaddeus S. “Ted” Lechowicz Woods, 5901 N. Central Ave. Photo: John Greenfield

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I’m happy to report that I got to take the maiden voyage on the northern half of theNorth Branch Trail extension this afternoon after officials cut the ribbon on the 1.8-mile stretch of off-street path. You can take a virtual spin on the trail with me by watching the video below. It’s probably not riveting viewing, and the recording stopped a little before I reached the end of the new stretch but it will give you an idea of what it’s like traveling on this high-quality facility.

The just-opened segment runs from Forest Glen to the southeast trailhead of the existing 18-mile North Branch Trail, which runs all the way north to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Work is underway to build an additional 1.2 miles of path that will continue the trail southeast to Gompers Park near the the LaBaugh Woods and Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove at Foster Avenue.

“The Forest Preserves offer more than 300 miles of trails in Cook County, which serve as a gateway to nature,” said county board president Toni Preckwinkle in a statement. “We are proud to mark the completion of phase one of this extension, which will serve additional Chicago residents as well as those in eight neighboring suburbs.”

The first phase of the extension includes a ten-foot-wide asphalt trail and two new bridges; one over the North Branch of the Chicago River at Central Street, and another over Metra’s Milwaukee District North line tracks. There’s also a new crosswalk for the trail at Central Street, with a button-activated stoplight, by the Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center, 6100 North Central Avenue.

North Branch Trail southern extension map
A side path will parallel Central Avenue, crossing two streets leading into the Old Edgebrook subdivision.

The southern extension costs $7.7 million, with 80 percent coming from federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program funds. The required 20 percent local patch is funded by the forest preserve along with $192,000 of Open Space Impact Fee funds allocated by 39th Ward Alderman Margaret Laurino.

Phase two of the trail extension is expected to be completed by the end of 2016, despite opposition from some residents in the surrounding neighborhoods of Old Edgebrook & Indian Woods. Old Edgebrook subdivision can only be accessed by Louise and Prescott avenues, small streets that intersect with Central.

A new section of the trail near Forest Glen. Photo: John Greenfield

Some Old Edgebrook residents are worried that it will be difficult to see bicyclists crossing Louise and Prescott on the new sidepath along Central. However, Central already has a sidewalk at these locations, so drivers must already watch for pedestrians crossing at the two locations.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    If the Edgebrook neighbors really want it to be safer, they should talk to their alderman for a road diet on Central. That’s a death trap because the sidewalk is right next to cars going 40-45mph.

  • Just got back from my first ride on the extension. It’s fantastic.

  • planetshwoop

    Exactly zero Old Edgebrook residents take the sidewalk on Central. It was designed to be isolated.

  • planetshwoop

    The cookies they passed around were a great bribe to get my kid into the picture…

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Oh I’m fully aware they don’t care about anyone but themselves. But all of their arguments against this were pretending to be concerned for others.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    There were cookies?? Man, should have gone!

  • Neighbor Bob

    One of the Old Edgebrook neighbors was so concerned about my safety this morning that he sped up and tried to hit me and two others I was riding with. To whomever that was in the black Merdedes, serisously what is wrong with you?

  • Scott Avers

    The trail extension is awesome and absolutely needed.

    With regards to Old Edgebrook, the trail was moved from the east side of Central Ave. to the west side of Central Ave. without community input. This change forced the trail to cut across the two entrances/exits to the Old Edgebrook neighborhood.

    This change made the project more expensive and no one from the Forest Preserve has ever fully explained the change. They did claim “costs”, but the traffic signal claims from IDOT were bogus.

    Anyways, great to see this finally open and the Gompers Park extension will make it even better.

  • Anne A

    I’m glad that they did something to create a safer crossing point on Central by Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center. As a forest preserve volunteer, I sometimes go to events there by train and bike. Safe access by bike has been challenging in the past.

  • kastigar

    Work has already started. Ride through LaBaugh Woods parking lot, down Foster past the Weber Spur, to the point where the Forest Preserve meets up with Gompers Park.

  • Edgebrook

    It’s great to see the trail open. And, I can’t wait to see it finished. It’s time.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    No they did explain that Lehigh/Central intersection was unsafe. And I completely agree with that assessement, as I’ve tried to cross Lehigh walking (not Central) and almost been hit — several times. So I gave up walking.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    They are great people. We can only hope their property values fall, as they predicted. Sadly, they will not.

  • FlatScreen

    Why are you such a hater and paint all the people of old Edgebrook with the same brush? Whatever beef you have with some individuals here would be better addressed with them face to face. I’ve done nothing to harm you or step in the way of the trail. Yet you ridicule and spout hate.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Folks, let’s try to keep the conversation polite. Perhaps a lyric from my former Chicago bike messenger colleagues The Alkaline Trio will help diffuse the situation: “Step four — stop off at Edgebrook Creek and rinse your crimson hands.”

  • Mcass777

    They did and I agree. I have been riding from Edgebrook to downtown via Central to Elston for 18’years and I have hated this stretch since day one. I often rode on the sidewalk on the east side of Central but even that is riddled with cracks, bumps and potholes. After the winter snows, the sidewalk would be coated with rocks kicked up from the decaying Central street surface for weeks. It’s crazy bad. There were days I put my bike in the car and drove to Elston just to avoid this bad street.

  • Mcass777

    Btw, there is a hard core commuter in Old Edgebrook. He is an Elston regular.

  • JeffParkNIMBY

    Apologies to you for the overgeneralization. Some of your neighbors are a very entitled bunch. For instance, when the Forest Preserve said they would build it at the last meeting, their next question was when the appropriate time to take legal action was. That’s not a way to win support from anyone. :)

  • kastigar

    You won’t need to ride on the sidewalk to join the Park District path along the river through Gompers Park:

  • kastigar

    Phase 2 will go up-and-over the Weber Spur trail, which is less than a mile going south to the Elston Bike lanes and less than a half-mile north to the Saugansh Trail which will join the extended path through Lincolnwood.

  • POh, cool, they’re combining it with the bridge reconstruction.

  • Jam Cam

    Great coverage of some great news! The aldermen and officials should thank you for your efforts.


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