North Riverside officials have designed much of the planned bicycle path through the village, but may have to place a portion on 26th Street to avoid private property and increased costs.
The Board of Trustees discussed the plan with engineer John Fitzgerald from Frank Navotny and Associates at an October meeting. The plan is on hold as the village waits to receive the funding it earned from the $286.4 billion Federal Transportation Bill, passed by the U.S. Senate on May 27.
The bill includes a $1.9 million grant to build a bike trail that would connect the western part of North Riverside with Veterans Park on the east end of the village.
The village is thrilled about receiving the funding, but has to figure out how to lay the path alongside the Riverside Country Club on the north side of 26th Avenue, said Village Administrator Guy Belmonte.
“We know where west end will go, we know where the east end will go, we just don’t know what to do between First Avenue and Desplaines,” Belmonte said.
In 2003, Mayor Richard Scheck requested $2.75 million to fund extending the Salt Creek Bike Trail. Fitzgerald said it could take 1-3 years to complete the path project, which will extend from an existing Forest Preserve path at Ninth Avenue on the west side, across the village to North Riverside Mall on the east side.
Most of the property has been identified for the path, Fitzgerald said. However, even if the property could be purchased along the country club on 26th Street, a bridge over the Des Plaines River would have to be widened, he said.
“It could possibly cost $1 million just to widen the bridge,” he said.
Another option is to designate a small portion of 26th Avenue itself as a bike lane. However, it’s against highway safety laws to put in a bike lane that goes against traffic, so that leaves only one lane open for the path, Fitzgerald said. Advice from the Association of State Highway and Transportation officials also indicates that a bike path on a road must have a barrier, he said.
“We will look at providing a barrier between the lanes and the path, or some kind of delineation,” he said.
What can be done right now, Belmonte said, is to clear away brush from the south side of 26th Street east up to First Avenue.
“We want to start now so that by next construction season we will be ready to go with phase 1. We’d like to have the brush cleared by the end of November,” the administrator said.
Belmonte said the village staff will continue to meet with Fitzgerald and narrow down options for the path in order to create a recommendation to present at a future board meeting.
In addition to the bike path, Scheck said the grant money would also be used to create several car pool parking lots along the trail and the creation of “park and lock” bicycle areas. Creation of the parking areas, Scheck estimated, would necessitate some land acquisition.
The two parking areas being considered are the south portion of the Higas property on 25th Street and railroad property on Traube Street, from Keystone to Lathrop avenues.
The village has one municipal parking lot, located just east of Desplaines Avenue, just south of 26th Street, in an area where there are a number of multifamily buildings.