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

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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.

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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.

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