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Chicago’s first protected bike lane on Kinzie St. increased ridership by 55 percent without increasing traffic congestion for cars.

Chicago Heights celebrates Old Plank Road Trail development

As reported last week on the Rails to Trails Conservancy's blog, trail advocates and residents in South Suburban Chicago Heights recently celebrated the long-awaited progress in the development of Old Plank Road Trail. The 22-mile paved trail is located about 30 miles south of Chicago, and connects the towns of Joilet, New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Chicago Heights.

Initial construction on Old Plank Road Trail began in 1997; the trail constitutes a small but significant portion of the larger Grand Illinois Trail, which runs a total of 500 miles through Northern Illinois.

Over the past decade, advocates worked relentlessly to ensure a 0.8-mile section that passes through Chicago Heights would come to completion as a functional portion of the larger Illinois trail network. Opposition towards the trail stemmed from worries that the trail would lead to a spike in criminal activity, due to its location in a historically underserved community. However, many residents and advocates hope that the trail will have the reverse effect; it will increase foot traffic and improve the community as new environmental and sustainable projects – such as community gardens and farmers markets – develop as a result.

Old Plank Road Trail prohibits motorized vehicles, but allows pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, and leashed animals. For more information and a full history of the trail, visit OPRT.org.