North Branch trail extension project to start this fall; Nov. 30 meeting on construction set


Construction on the first phase of a 3.1-mile southern extension of the North Branch bike and pedestrian trail is scheduled to start Nov. 30, and funding was secured to pay for the second phase.

The Cook County Forest Preserve District recently announced on its Web site that the start of the second phase has not been determined, and it will be “dependent on favorable construction pricing.”

The district has obtained a $1.6 million Transportation Alternatives Program grant to help pay for the second phase, which will cover about one third of the total extension, and it hopes to have more information on the second phase next spring, according to the Web site.

Plans had called for construction of the entire extension to begin this year and to be completed in 2016, but the project was delayed after bids for the estimated $6.7 million project were too high.

The first phase of the project, which will cost $5.3 million, will start in Edgebrook and end in Forest Glen. Several of the largest infrastructure expenses, including the installation of a traffic signal on Central Avenue in Old Edgebrook and a bridge in Indian Woods, are included in the first phase.

The second phase will cover the portion of the trail which will run from Forest Glen to the Hernandez Picnic Grove in LaBagh Woods near Foster and Kostner avenues.

The design of the extension has remained unchanged from the plans announced last summer despite safety concerns which some Edgebrook area residents have raised. The trail will require users to cross both Prescott Avenue and Louise Avenue, the only two streets leading into the 55-home Old Edgebrook subdivision, which is west of Central.

Those residents have recommended that the trail run along the east side of Central, as once planned, or be rerouted to along the perimeter of the Edgebrook Golf Course. They have said that the current design creates a potentially dangerous situation for bicyclists and pedestrians since all vehicles entering and leaving the subdivision would have to cross the trail.

Between Louise and Prescott the trail will be set back 70 feet west of Central to allow for vehicles to stack up on those two side streets while motorists are waiting for trail users to cross. In other areas, the trail will run adjacent to Central.

District officials ruled out using the east side of Central because it would have required trail users to cross Central at Lehigh Avenue, and they said it would have been too expensive to coordinate traffic signals in Downtown Edgebrook to accommodate a crossing there.

In addition, on its Web site, the district stated that using the golf course was not feasible because “there is inadequate room outside the floodplain the entire way.”

After a recent meeting of the Edgebrook Community Association, several residents said that they welcome the overall project but that they are disappointed that district officials have been unwilling to meet with the community to discuss safety issues since a town hall meeting in the summer of 2014.

The district recently announced that it will host a construction briefing for the public from 7 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Edgebrook Clubhouse, 6100 N. Central Ave.

The 18-mile North Branch trail runs from Devon and Caldwell avenues to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. The southern extension will run from Devon and Caldwell.