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Lincolnwood Builds New Segments of the Valley Line Trail and the Weber Spur

The new stretch of the Valley Line at Devon, photographed in early November. Jeff Zoline

The northern suburb of Lincolnwood recently filled in the final gap in the Valley Line Trail, a paved multiuse path that runs from the Sauganash neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side to Skokie, creating an uninterrupted 4.5-mile corridor for transportation and recreation.

The trail has been developed in segments along a former Union Pacific railroad spur. The mile-long stretch in Chicago, known as the Sauganash Trail, opened in the summer of 2008 between Bryn Mawr Avenue and Devon Avenue, the city’s northern border.

The section of the Valley Line Trail in Skokie was built in two phases. The first phase was built from Dempster Street, next to a CTA Skokie Swift (Yellow Line) station to Oakton Street in downtown Skokie in conjunction with the opening of the ‘L’ stop in the spring of 2012. The second phase from Oakton Street to Lincolnwood border at Lincoln & Jarvis Avenues was completed in the summer of 2015.

The Lincolnwood section, between Devon and Lincoln/Jarvis was built between July and October 2016 at a cost of about $1 million using federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding for 80 percent of the construction costs, with the village providing the required 20 percent local match. This stretch of the path runs adjacent to a ComEd right of way.

Local officials cut the ribbon on the new segment on October 17. A few improvements and additions are still in the works, including emergency call boxes, an ornamental fence at Devon, and an overpass over Touhy Avenue, construction of which will begin next year. [Editor's note: The overpass will be located just east of the highly recommended New York Bagel & Bialy delicatessen.]

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It's now possible to travel 4.5 miles on a car-free route between Sauganash and Skokie. Image: Google Maps

The Valley Line Trail segments in Sauganash and Skokie previously served mainly a recreational facility for nearby residents due to their lack of continuity, and they were lesser known than the popular North Branch Trail, located to the west of the Valley Line. But the current extension transformed the Valley Line into a practical route for longer walks, runs, rides and commutes, which should help attract new users and spark interest in future extensions down the road.

In September, a new southern extension of the North Branch Trail opened between Devon and Forest Glen Woods, and another new stretch is planned which will continue the trail south to Foster Avenue, by the LaBaugh Woods. If the Valley Line was extended south a bit more from Bryn Mawr, it would meet up with that newest stretch of the North Branch.

A more ambitious trail extension possibility would involve extending the Valley Line Trail several miles north from Skokie to meet up with the existing Skokie Valley Trail, which runs between Lake Cook Road, the county line, and Rockland Road (Illinois Route 176) in Lake Bluff. This would require each suburb along the way to build a section within their boundaries.

In addition to the Valley Line Trail, another trail is being built in Lincolnwood nearby along the former Union Pacific Weber Spur. The Weber Spur Trail will run one mile between the city limits at Devon and Touhy Avenue by the Lincolnwood Town Center and the nearby North Shore Channel Trail. The project cost is $955,000, funded by federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality plus another local match from the village. Construction began in August and the trail is expected to open this spring.

Hopefully the openeing of the Weber Spur Trail in Lincolnwood will motivate the City of Chicago to extend the path south from Devon to Bryn Mawr where it would meet up with the south end of the Sauganash Trail. This would be an ideal bicycle trail junction, and it could pave the way for a future connection with the North Branch Trail.

Lincolnwood deserves a hat-tip for building these sections of the Valley Line Trail and the Weber Spur. Both of these projects should be catalysts that should help generate future development and trail extensions.

Streetsblog Chicago will resume publication on Tuesday. Have a safe and fun New Year's Eve.

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