New path would link to North Branch Trail
by KEVIN GROSS
The Village of Niles and the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways are planning to build a new bicycle and pedestrian path connecting to the North Branch Trail in the Bunker Hill Forest Preserve.
Plans call for an additional branch to be constructed from the existing trail south of Picnic Grove 7 in the north end of Bunker Hill Forest Preserve and continuing north and east through preserve land and ending at the intersection of Touhy and Caldwell avenues. Construction would begin in 2021, officials said.
"It’s almost like a new branch of the trail. The forest preserve has been interested and pushing for improving access of trails to the various communities, so this is kind of along those lines of giving people another way to access the trail, or another arm or branch to explore from the main trail," Niles public engineer Thomas Powers said. "It shouldn’t affect the main trail at all."
About $30,000 in funding from the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highway’s "Invest in Cook" initiative will go towards project design and engineering, according to Cook County director of communications Natalia Derevyanny.
According to Powers, the new trail will be paved along a stretch of land that was already cleared from trees in the past to install a sewer line through the forest preserve. A statement by the Cook County Department of Transportation described the new trail as "a dedicated off-street route for both bicyclists and pedestrians."
Powers said that beginning next year, the village may apply for additional grants once they have determined the final project cost and completed more project designs, and that "anything beyond that ($30,000) is on us to find." Niles communications director Mitchell Johnson said that the current cost estimate is $500,000 for construction based on initial plans.
Additional improvements will include a new pedestrian crossing and a traffic signal at the intersection of Touhy and Caldwell avenues to provide access to the Touhy bus stop shelter and better accessibility to the "Touhy Triangle" northeast of the intersection bounded by Touhy, Caldwell and Lehigh avenues and Gross Point Road.
"The Touhy Triangle envisions a walkable environment that is completely accessible by all means of transportation. In the village’s work to improve the vitality of this corridor, every effort is being made to enhance the non-vehicular transportation environment through multi-modal connections," Johnson said. "As the North Branch Trail is in close proximity, it would be highly likely that walkers, runners and bikers would utilize this trail to access the Touhy Triangle. Additionally, residents, businesses and visitors alike who are within the Touhy Triangle could utilize the trail as an amenity that enhances the experience of the area and makes the Triangle a more desirable and attractive area."