Students and other active people have been using the bike path connecting 26th Street in North Riverside with Riverside-Brookfield High School – even though barricades indicate that the newest section of the path isn’t officially open yet.

Throughout the late fall and into winter, the path was located in an active construction zone, with crews from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago working to shore up the massive Salt Creek Intercepting Sewer, which runs far underground along First Avenue.

A section of the land earmarked for the path along the west side of First Avenue, near its intersection with Golfview Avenue, served as a construction staging area for the MWRD.

Because construction progressed slowly through that area, by the time the MWRD vacated the area it was too cold to lay asphalt along that stretch of the path, which remains unfinished.

Some gravel has been deposited at the location, but as of late last week it was not graded and a large pile of earth is still something of an impediment from where the path terminates right now, about 100 feet or so east of Golfview Avenue.

But Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. of North Riverside, which has been the lead municipal sponsor for this phase of the project, said that the unfinished section of the path will be covered with gravel and graded to make it more passable until it can be paved after the weather warms up. Hermanek also said temporary striping will be laid down as well.

“The paving depends on the weather,” said Hermanek. “It’ll probably be March or April, after the asphalt factories open again.”

Meanwhile, new countdown traffic signals slated for the north-south crosswalk on the west side of First Avenue at 31st Street and the east-west crosswalk where First Avenue curves to meet Golfview Avenue should be installed during the first week of February, said Hermanek.

The underground electrical connections are already in place and waiting for installation of the new signals.

Once the final section of the path is paved and gets its permanent striping, local and county officials will hold a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the second phase of the First Avenue bike path, which connects 26th Street and 31st Street. Phase one, which connected 31st Street and Ridgewood Road was completed in 2014.

Cook County appropriated $750,000 in its budget to complete phase two of the project after contributing $100,000 for phase one. Riverside and North Riverside paid for engineering and design, which were completed by North Riverside’s municipal engineering firm, Frank Novotny and Associates. The Riverside-Brookfield Board of Education contributed to both phases of the project. 

The final phase of the path, connecting First Avenue along the south side of 31st Street to Prairie Avenue (and providing a more direct link with the Salt Creek Bike Trail north of 31st Street) is not yet in the formal planning stages.