North Riverside officials say that a new bike path connecting the village with Riverside-Brookfield High School should be complete this year, but the route the path will take is changing.
Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. confirmed on Wednesday that the new bike path will proceed down the west side of First Avenue the entire way between 31st Street and 26thStreet, avoiding Golfview Road all together.
Local officials say leaders at the Chicago Zoological Society balked at the initial plan, which would have routed the bike path west on 31st Street to Golfview Road and then north on the west side of Golfview, linking up with First Avenue about 1,000 feet north of 31st Street.
With the entrance to the Brookfield Zoo’s main parking lot on the west side of Golfview Road, according to local officials, the zoo believed running the path across the entrance was a safety hazard.
“We realized bicyclists and pedestrians were going to be walking through cars waiting to get into the parking lot,” Hermanek said. “It appeared to be a safety issue.”
As a result, the bike path will cross 31st Street on the west side of First Avenue and will process north along the west side of First Avenue. North Riverside’s village engineer, John Fitzgerald of Frank Novotny and Associates, said there would be a buffer of at least five feet between the asphalt path and west of the curb along First Avenue. Drainage improvements will be made north of 31st Street at points along the route, which can get pretty soggy during rain events.
In order to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to safely cross Golfview Road – which includes two northbound left turn-only lanes, a triangular median and a southbound through lane – a new countdown traffic signal will be installed to halt southbound traffic at the Golfview/First Avenue intersection, said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said that the committee of local and county officials who have been meeting on and off for the past couple of years regarding the bike path project will be meeting in the next week or so to refine the alignment of the path.
Douglas Chien, advocates’ network manager for Friends of the Forest Preserves, who is part of that committee said his organization is “open to considering [the new alignment] and have consulted with two local stewardship leaders who know McCormick Woods well.”
Officials initially decided against the First Avenue-only path and to go with the Golfview solution as a way to avoid the installation of an additional traffic signal. The trade-off for the new route is that it will end up being somewhat shorter, Hermanek said.
The installation of new digital countdown traffic lights at both 31st Street and the Golfview/First intersection is adding an additional $100,000 or so to the project, said Fitzgerald.
However, that cost will be offset by the rerouting, which will reduce its length. Both Fitzgerald and Hermanek suggested that the changes would not affect the final cost of the project very much, if at all.
Earlier this year, through the efforts of Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski, the county appropriated $750,000 to complete the bike path project. The village of North Riverside is the lead agency for the effort and will be reimbursed for the costs of construction.
The first phase of the project, which saw the construction of a path on the west side of First Avenue from Ridgewood Road to 31st Street, was completed in 2014 courtesy of a $100,000 grant from the county and another $100,000 in combined contributions from Riverside-Brookfield High School and the villages of Riverside and North Riverside.
Officials two years ago had also contemplated a third phase of the path, connecting First Avenue and Prairie Avenue along the north side of 31st Street. However, the future of that segment of the path is unclear now that 31st Street is being bypassed in completing phase two.