By Bob Uphues
The village of Riverside plans to spend about $83,000 next year to fund Phase I engineering for a plan to extend the Des Plaines River bike/pedestrian trail south from Ridgewood Road to Ogden Avenue and then east to connect with the Ottawa Woods Trail in Cermak Woods in Lyons.
That work will follow in the wake of a study being wrapped up the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which has been working with local and regional agencies and organizations since last year to determine the best route.
CMAP is expected to issue its recommendations in a study scheduled to be published in October, said Riverside Community Development Director Sonya Abt, who has been one of the people involved in the effort.
Riverside has been identified as the lead local agency for the project, which could still be years away from completion. However, the Central Conference of Mayors has earmarked between $350,000 and $450,000 in federal transportation funds it administers for the Phase I engineering, which will keep the project's momentum moving forward.
Exactly how much Phase I engineering will cost is unknown, and the final CMAP study will form the basis of a request for qualifications for that work.
The federal funds will cover 80 percent of the engineering costs. The other 20 percent will need to be matched locally. While Riverside will pay that share, village officials are working to get other agencies to chip in a portion of that local match, which likely would be between $80,000 and $90,000.
That figure doesn't include construction costs in the future.
Other municipalities involved in the planning effort include Lyons, North Riverside and Brookfield. The Cook County Forest Preserve District also plays a key role in the planning, since it owns much of the land identified for the path's right-of-way.
"We're hoping everyone can get on board and complete this missing segment of the regional trail network," said John O'Neal, the CMAP project manager leading the Des Plaines River South Extension Planning Study.
What will that segment look like? When it is published in October, the study is likely to recommend extending the existing path on the west side of First Avenue, pushing parts of the trail farther west into the woods and away from First Avenue.
O'Neal said that the plan will recommend installing a pedestrian bridge over Salt Creek west of First Avenue and continue the trail south to Ogden Avenue. The trail would continue east, at first on an existing bike path north of Ogden Avenue and then along the river behind the commercial properties north of Ogden Avenue, taking advantage of new land that was created along the riverbank when the Hofmann Dam was removed.
The path would link up with another already existing path at the Riverwalk condominiums and then across Joliet Avenue to what is now a parking area just east of the Barrypoint Road bridge. The plan will recommend improving that parking area to create a real trailhead, said O'Neal.
From there, the path would arc along the river in Riverside Lawn and reconnect north of 39th Street at Shakespeare Avenue, which lines up with where the Ottawa Wood Bike Trail terminates in Cermak Woods.
Completion of such a path would connect the Ottawa Woods path with the Salt Creek Trail via 26th Street.
The extension of the First Avenue path to Ogden Avenue and east to Lyons is the trail connector option most likely to move forward in coming years. However, the study also includes options for creating local connector routes to the regional path on municipal streets.
It also likely will advocate for a side path connecting the Salt Creek Trail to First Avenue along 31st Street from Prairie Avenue in Brookfield. O'Neal said the recommended route would be along the south side of 31st Street, where the bridge over Salt Creek can safely accommodate bikes and pedestrians.
Whether that segment of the trail would be included in the Phase I engineering is unclear. The village of Brookfield last year applied for a $175,000 Cook County grant to fund engineering for bicycle and pedestrian improvements along 31st Street, but was awarded just $85,000, putting that initiative on the back burner.