Did You Know?

While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

River Trail action plan released

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While Chicago’s lakefront park and trail system is second to none, the Chicago River has not yet reached its full potential as a place for community recreation and alternative transportation. 

To change that, the Active Trans is embarking on a campaign to create a continuous trail along the Chicago River. 

As part of that process, we’re releasing a Chicago River Trail Action Plan, which lays out key steps to create a continuous trail on the north and south branches of the Chicago River within Chicago that connects to existing trails in the suburbs. 

Read the executive summary of the action plan. 

As demonstrated by the overwhelming success of existing urban trails like the Lakefront Trail and Bloomingdale Trail, the public demand for more off-street trails runs deep. 

While talk of a continuous Chicago River Trail has a long history, recent initiatives, like the recently released Our Great Rivers vision has brought the idea back to the forefront.

Nearly half of the 27 miles of Chicago’s riverfront has existing trail segments, and several more miles are slated for development over the next few years. While there are currently 14.8 miles of the Chicago River with no trail, 7 miles of river provide “near term opportunities” for creating new trail segments. 

Active Trans has been working with community organizations in neighborhoods all along the river to discuss needs for the trail in local communities, how to improve river access, and upcoming development projects that may affect future trail sections. 

A number of active and planned riverside developments create unique opportunities to reshape the landscape along the river and leverage private resources to complete new river trail segments. The El Paseo Trail project in Little Village and Pilsen, the south extension of the North Branch Trail, the downtown Riverwalk expansion, the Bridgeport rowing center, the Finkl Steel site, the enhancements at Lathrop Homes, and planned developments in the South Loop and on Goose Island are just a few examples of immediate opportunities to move the Chicago River Trail forward.

In some locations where riverbank is not available for a trail, new trail segments may need to float on the river or be built on a deck above the river, such as the planned Riverview Bridge between Clark Park and California Park on the North Branch. 

Given that nearly 1 million Chicago residents live within one mile of the river, a continuous river trail has the potential to benefit a huge portion of the city, providing them with a new set of options for recreation, access to greenspace and healthy transportation. 

To see the executive summary of the action plan, visit 

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Image courtesy of CDOT and Epstein.