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Only 24 percent of jobs in the region are accessible by transit in 90 minutes or less by a typical resident — and that number drops to 12 percent in the suburbs.

I&M Canal Trail completion gains momentum

Would you like the opportunity to bike on a seamless trail from Chicago to Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks?

The I&M Canal Trail and the Centennial Trail run from the southwest suburbs of Chicago to the downstate parks.

However, as riders of those trails know, major gaps exist in the trails that restrict users from staying on the same trail to make that journey. Instead, during those gaps, riders need to find their own alternative routes to safely make the trip.

Due to the nature of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the heavy industrial users along the canal in the near southwest suburbs, a large gap exists in the I&M Canal Trail from the Chicago Portage National Historic Site in Lyons to the Village of Willow Springs.

For the past year and a half, Active Trans has participated on a Feasibility Study Steering Committee effort, along with a number of government agencies and local elected officials, to explore possible trail options to eliminate that gap. The full results of that Feasibility Study can be viewed here. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the only gap in the trails in this area.

Farther down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the I&M Canal Trail disappears again near the villages of Lemont and Lockport, where the trail could run immediately adjacent to those town’s commercial districts, giving riders opportunities to stop and find places to eat, drink or use restroom facilities on their trail journey.

Building on the momentum of the I&M Canal Trail Feasibility Study and the interest from the other nearby communities to eliminate the gaps farther down the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, Active Trans and Congressman Dan Lipinski recently brought together nearby mayors and government agency representatives for a roundtable discussion to explore the quickest and most practical solutions to eliminating these pesky gaps.

Lipinski, representing Illinois’ Third District, is the state’s senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

A cooperative and robust conversation of the existing issues in these gaps, initial engineering challenges, and opportunities for varied trail alternatives led to discussions of practical and timely next steps to move engineering and coordination efforts forward.

Active Transportation Alliance, Congressman Lipinski, the mayors of the towns along the canal and government agencies from around the region will continue discussions and efforts to find ways to move this project forward and make the I&M Canal Trail one of the premier transportation and recreation corridors in the Chicagoland region.

If you’d like more information on any of the efforts to close the gap in the I&M Canal Trail, contact Matt Gomez, Trail Advocacy Manager, at matt@activetrans.org or (312) 216-0474.