North Branch Trail extension pushed to 2023
by JASON MEREL
Construction of a new bicycle and pedestrian path connecting the North Branch Trail from the Bunker Hill forest preserve to Touhy and Caldwell avenues will begin in the spring of 2023, according to officials.
The trail will be constructed along an easement corridor for a sewer line that was installed in 1957, according to Forest Preserves of Cook County director of communications Carl Vogel.
“Because of that use, there are no trees that will be removed for the project,” Vogel said. “The Forest preserves and volunteers have done significant restoration work in the area near the trail along Harts Road and Caldwell Avenue. This new connection will allow another easy access option for bikers and hikers to access the remarkable natural areas at Bunker Hill and the more than 20 miles of trails in the Forest Preserves’ North Branch Trail system.”
The total project cost including engineering and construction is estimated at about $499,000, according to Niles spokesman Mitch Johnson.
“ALTHOUGH we are seeing price escalation in the market from when the estimate was prepared,” Johnson said.
The village will hire a construction engineer and the project cost will be split with 80 percent coming from federal funds and 20 percent coming from local funds, according to Johnson. He added that the village has already received an “Invest in Cook” grant that will cover much of the 20 percent of the local funding obligation.
A joint funding agreement for the project showed that federal funds will be administered through IDOT’s Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, with $360,000 going to construction and $15,000 going to construction engineering. The agreement shows that $90,000 for construction and $34,000 for construction engineering will be provided by local agencies.
The project was originally proposed as a way to link the North Branch Trail with the “Touhy Triangle,” an area bounded by Touhy, Caldwell and Lehigh avenues and Gross Point Road.
The village has been taking a long-term approach to developing the area. There is no planned unit development but officials are looking to redevelop several vacant parcels, including the Leaning Tower YMCA and the former Grainger building at 7300 N. Melvina Ave.
The Niles Board of Trustees approved the sale of 3 acres of the former Grainger property to Costco at its June 28 meeting. The property will be demolished by Costco to create auxiliary parking and the company will be reimbursed with village tax increment financing funds. Costco had been leasing an acre and a half of the property for employee parking prior to the approval. A board agenda document from the meeting said “the retention of Costco for many years into the future prompted the village to assist Costco in their desire to solve their parking deficiency.”
As for the Leaning Tower YMCA, Johnson said the property is for sale and the village is expecting a mixed-use development but the property has yet to be sold to a developer.