Work begins on trail extension
by BRIAN NADIG
Construction of the 3.1-mile southern extension of the North Branch bike and pedestrian trail through Edgebrook, Indian Woods and Forest Glen is scheduled to start this summer and to last a year.
The 18-mile North Branch trail runs from Devon and Caldwell avenues through several suburbs to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. The southern extension will run from Devon and Caldwell to the Hernandez Picnic Grove in LaBagh Woods near Foster and Kostner avenues.
Residents have expressed concern about flooding in the extension’s underpasses, the loss of trees to make room for the asphalt path and the configuration of the trail along Central Avenue. No major changes in the $7.5 million project have been made since the Cook County Forest Preserve District held a community meeting on the project last August.
District officials have said that despite periodic problems of standing water, underpasses provide safe crossing routes at busy intersections and that about 450 trees will be removed for construction of the trail extension. Some residents have estimated that more trees will be removed, and they have requested that county officials accompany them on a walk-through to confirm the actual number.
The route initially was planned for the east side of Central south of Lehigh Avenue, and trail users would have crossed Central at the traffic signal at the Central-Lehigh intersection. Signal improvements would have been made to allow a safer crossing, but those changes would have had to be coordinated with the other traffic lights in Downtown Edgebrook.
In the spring of last year the district determined that it would have been too costly to coordinate all of the signalized intersections, and the path was moved to the west side of Central.
The trail will continue south on Central for about two blocks, and users will be able to cross Central at entrance to the Edgebrook Clubhouse, 6100 N. Central Ave., where an on-demand traffic signal will be installed. A button will allow trail users to activate a signal that will stop traffic on Central, and a roadway sensor also will activate the signal when vehicles are exiting the clubhouse parking lot.
In addition, concerns have been expressed about potential conflicts between trail users and motorists who are turning from Central onto Louise Avenue or Prescott Avenue, which are the only two vehicular access points to the Old Edgebrook neighborhood. The 55-home subdivision runs is west of Central and north of the Edgebrook Golf Course.
At the recommendation of the city Department of Transportation, the trail will be located about 30 feet west of Central as it approaches Prescott and Louise to allow space for turning vehicles to stack while trail users are crossing. Some residents have suggested that instead of using Central, the trail should go through the golf course or be routed onto side streets in Old Edgebrook. District officials say that a route through the neighborhood would expose users to unsafe on-street conditions
"The Cook County Forest Preserve District has not given the community enough justification that the path alignment they are implementing is the most safe and feasible alternative, and the CCFPD has not given any compelling reasons why other options were ruled out or cannot be investigated further," Edgebrook Community Association president Jeff Manuel wrote in a letter to the district last year.
East of Central, trail users will cross the North Branch of the Chicago River via a new bridge that will be built north of Indian Road. The trail will run through Indian Road Woods, where a bridge will be constructed over railroad tracks near Indian Road and Ardmore Avenue, an underpass at the Edens Expressway will be widened to accommodate bikes, and a new underpass will be built under Cicero Avenue east of the expressway.
The new underpass will lead to LaBagh Woods. From there bicyclists will be able to connect to the Sauganash Trail to the north, the Lakefront Trail to the east or the planned Weber Spur Trail to the northeast.