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Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

Active Trans works to connect trails in Chicagoland

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago area residents have come to depend on trails not only as recreational assets, but also as transportation corridors that provide low-stress walking and biking connections within and between communities.

The Chicago area provides opportunities to enjoy more than 1,100 miles of trails that crisscross the region. But too often people walking or biking on our regional trails encounter dead ends, dangerous crossings, diversions onto stressful streets, and other gaps in the network.

Through our Trail Connect Chicagoland campaign, Active Trans works with advocates and public officials across the region to advance trail projects that move us closer to a seamless network. Multi-use trail projects take time to develop and implement, but thanks to the determination of grassroots leaders throughout the region, we are seeing progress on many exciting projects.

This progress does not come easy. Rarely is building a new trail as simple as just paving a path. Trails often cut across different communities through a patchwork of public and private land. A successful project frequently requires half a dozen or more different agencies and organizations coordinating on things like planning, design, land acquisition, environmental studies, and fundraising.

Active Trans mobilizes our members and supporters to build the political will necessary to overcome these obstacles. In 2019, we successfully secured $50 million in new, annual state funding for walking and biking projects, creating a new source of funding for local trail projects.

We also work directly with communities leading intergovernmental coordination and providing technical assistance on fundraising and planning.

Here are some examples of this work in action:

More information about each of these projects: 

Skokie Valley Trail

The Skokie Valley Trail is getting closer to having a 4.5-mile gap filled with a new trail segment. When the future of the North Suburban Cook County project was under threat, Active Trans successfully mobilized advocates to attend a public meeting and voice support for the project. Communities are continuing to work together to move the new trail into the next stage of development.

Des Plaines River Trail

Active Trans is supporting a coalition of West Suburban Cook County municipalities and the Forest Preserves of Cook County to improve the Des Plaines River Trail from Touhy Avenue to North Avenue. In 2018, we conducted a corridor study to identify important walking and biking routes to access the improved trail. We also helped launch the Friends of the Des Plaines River Trail to create a space for supportive community members to advocate for the trail. Moving forward, we will continue to connect members and supporters to opportunities to advocate for the project as it moves from design to construction.

Chicago River Trail

During the 2019 Chicago Municipal Election, Mayor Lightfoot endorsed Active Trans’ goal of a continuous trail system along the Chicago River. Since then, new river trail connections have recently opened including the Lincoln Village Bridge, 312 RiverRun, and a redesigned riverfront trail segment at Lathrop Homes. Thanks to advocacy from Active Trans, the city is also now conducting a comprehensive study to identify and prioritize remaining work necessary to complete the trail over the coming years.

I&M Canal Trail

The I&M Canal Trail is a treasured part of the Southwest Suburban trail network. However, the trail stops short of connecting into the City of Chicago and linking to the Des Plaines River Trail to the north. This is a challenging connection that has been studied for a number of years without any clear signs of progress. To reignite the project, Active Trans worked with Congressman Dan Lipinski to host a roundtable of local elected officials and other stakeholders on the status of efforts to extend the trail. The group re-committed to working together to raise funds to move the project into the next phase of development.

Lake Calumet Regional Trails

Since 2015, Active Trans has been working with residents and elected officials on the Far South Side of Chicago to improve community access to new and planned open spaces, including Big Marsh Park. Active Trans recently secured resources from Cook County and the State of Illinois to begin development of a new trail across Lake Calumet linking the historic Pullman National Monument to Big Marsh. This important first step will pave the way for design and construction of the project.

 

Not a member of Active Trans? Support from our members enables Active Trans to push forward important advocacy efforts. If you’ve benefitted from the work that Active Trans does in the region, please consider becoming a member.