North Branch Trail Southern Extension

stage-1-ribbon-cutting

This new trail segment extends the 18-mile North Branch Trail three miles south, from Devon Avenue and Caldwell Avenue to Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Area at Foster Avenue and Kostner Avenue. Click here for map.

 

Updates

August 12, 2017: Stage 2 of the North Branch Southern Extension is now open. Minor work will continue through fall 2017, which may result in occasional, temporary closures.

September 21, 2016: Stage 1 of the North Branch Southern Extension is now open. Minor work will continue until spring 2017, which may result in occasional, temporary closures. Upcoming work includes: shoulder seeding, paving repairs to access parking lots, tree trimming, center line and crosswalk striping and tree planting.

August 25, 2016: The contract for Stage 2 of the extension was awarded in July 2016, and construction has started. Stage 2 includes an additional 1.2 miles of paved trail ending at Foster Avenue.

August 16, 2016: Stage 1 of the North Branch Southern Extension will open to the public on September 21 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Details to follow.

December 21, 2015: The Forest Preserves broke ground on Stage 1 of the North Branch Trail’s southern extension. Read the press release for more information.

November 30, 2015: The Forest Preserves hosted a public briefing on November 30, 2015 from at the Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center to inform residents of the construction impacts. This meeting focused on Stage 1 construction of the trail from Devon and Caldwell, south to Forest Glen Avenue. Click here to view the meeting presentation.

November 9, 2015: The project has been split into two stages. Stage 1 (Devon and Caldwell to Forest Glen Avenue) construction starts November 30, 2015. Stage 2 (Forest Glen Avenue to Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Area) has been approved for additional funding. Stage 2 is dependent on favorable construction pricing. We expect to have further information on Stage 2 in spring 2016. See Q23-Q29 for the latest information.

June 23, 2015: The design plans for the 2016 trail project were updated to address concerns about the trail crossings along Central Avenue at Louise & Prescott streets. See Q19 for more information.

October 30, 2014: The Forest Preserves met with CDOT to review the plans and the requested alternatives to address the safety concerns at the crossing of Louise and Prescott. CDOT is now reviewing plans and if approved, they will be sent to IDOT for approval.

September 4, 2014: Thank you to those that attended the Community Open House on August 21, 2014. Questions and answers from the meeting have been updated below.

 

Q1: When will the trail extension construction begin and end?

Q1: When will the trail extension construction begin and end?

Stage 1 (Devon and Caldwell to Forest Glen Avenue) construction starts November 30, 2015. Stage 2 (Forest Glen Avenue to Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Area) has been approved for additional funding. Stage 2 construction began August 2016. See Q23-Q29 for the latest information

 

Q2: When did planning for the trail begin?

Q2: When did planning for the trail begin?

Planning for the trail began in 2005 with an initial request from City of Chicago. The first funding application was submitted in 2005 through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), with a second submitted in 2007 through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). Engineering for the project started 2009. Ongoing public outreach began in 2008 with coordinated meetings with the Alderman’s office and has continued through 2014.

 

Q3: How much is the total cost of construction and where are the funds coming from?

Q3: How much is the total cost of construction and where are the funds coming from?

Funding was awarded in 2007, with total project costs estimated at $7.5 million. Federal funds cover approximately 80% of the project ($6.2 million) and the Forest Preserves is contributing approximately 20% ($1.5 million).

 

Q4: What alternative routes were looked at?

Q4: What alternative routes were looked at?

Twenty-two different trail alignments were studied and presented in September 2010 at a Public Open House held at Edgebrook Community Center. The current trail alignment is based on community feedback, engineering studies and input from regional partners.

 

Q5: Why not install a pedestrian and bike bridge over Central Avenue in lieu of a crossing?

Q5: Why not install a pedestrian and bike bridge over Central Avenue in lieu of a crossing?

Bridges require extensive site area for the approach on either side. This would require more impact to trees and require a larger trail development area than is currently identified.

 

Q6: Why not reroute the trail west around the golf course?

Q6: Why not reroute the trail west around the golf course?

A good portion of this area is in the floodway and not suitable for trail development, so it was ruled out in Phase 1 planning.

 

Q7: Why not reroute the Central Avenue crossing using Caldwell Avenue for the crossing? Why was the route through Old Edgebrook using on-street roads not considered?

Q7: Why not reroute the Central Avenue crossing using Caldwell Avenue for the crossing? Why was the route through Old Edgebrook using on-street roads not considered?

This option was looked at but required two at-grade rail crossings and driveway crossings at the bus turn-around which was not ideal. Also it has the trail on-street and that is not the preferred alignment for the trail design.

The on-street route was not considered safe because it would expose trail users to street conditions, residential driveways and a parking lot—all of which are considered conflicts to trail users. The Forest Preserves is continuing dialogue about this option with the residents of Old Edgebrook.

 

Q8: Why was the route through Old Edgebrook using on-street roads not considered?

Q8: Why was the route through Old Edgebrook using on-street roads not considered?

The on-street route was not considered safe because it would expose trail users to street conditions, residential driveways and a parking lot—all of which are considered conflicts to trail users. The Forest Preserves is continuing dialogue about this option with the residents of Old Edgebrook.

 

Q9: When did the Central Avenue section of the trail alignment move from the east side to the west side?

Q9: When did the Central Avenue section of the trail alignment move from the east side to the west side?

The original trail alignment approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in July 2013 was changed when the Forest Preserves learned through the design process in late February 2014 that the original Central Avenue crossing would require changes to six other traffic signals in downtown Edgebrook, at a cost of approximately $1 million. In addition to the additional cost, the Forest Preserves was concerned about delays caused by such a large number of traffic signal upgrades. IDOT and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) reviewed possible alternative signal locations along Central Avenue between Caldwell Avenue and the North Branch of the Chicago River and recommended the current proposed crossing signal.

 

Crossings considered at Louise Avenue and Prescott Avenue were rejected because their proximity to existing traffic signals would not provide enough room for vehicle traffic to safely ‘stack’ at these traffic signals. Currently, IDOT is reviewing the “Traffic Warrant Analysis” for the proposed traffic signal. This alignment would not only serve trail users, but also employees and guests of the Edgebrook Golf Course and Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center. It is anticipated that this new traffic signal will slow down vehicle traffic and provide additional gaps in traffic flow that would help both the Indian Road and Old Edgebrook Communities exit their neighborhood with greater ease.

 

Q10: How close will the trail come to individual homes?

Q10: How close will the trail come to individual homes?

The trail comes closest to private homes near the crossing at Forest Glen Avenue where it is approximately 150 feet from a private residence and 50 feet from the property line of the private residence. Click here to view the approximate trail alignment.

 

Q11: What impacts will the new trail have on the community?

Q11: What impacts will the new trail have on the community?

The new trail will be a wonderful amenity providing off-road trail access. Approximately 450 trees will be removed for construction of the trail. New infrastructure will be built, including a bridge over the river, a bridge over railroad tracks and a new on-demand signalized crossing at the Matthew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center (6100 N. Central Avenue).

 

Q12: Why is the trail alignment close to the road along Caldwell Avenue, Lehigh Avenue and Central Avenue?

Q12: Why is the trail alignment close to the road along Caldwell Avenue, Lehigh Avenue and Central Avenue?

The trail alignment is five feet from the road along Caldwell Avenue, Lehigh Avenue and Central Avenue to utilize existing sidewalk infrastructure and reduce the number of trees that will need to be removed. Also, the area further west along Central Avenue wet and not suitable for a trail. UPDATE November 9, 2015: The trail now was moved in 60 feet from Central to accommodate additional space for cars to exit Louise and Prescott.

 

Q13: Will there be a traffic crossing at Foster Avenue and Kostner Avenue? Will there be a traffic crossing at Foster Avenue and Kilbourn Avenue?

Q13: Will there be a traffic crossing at Foster Avenue and Kostner Avenue? Will there be a traffic crossing at Foster Avenue and Kilbourn Avenue?

There are two existing lights at Kostner each with stripped crosswalks that would provide direct access to either the North Branch Trail or Gompers Park Trail.

The crossing at Foster Avenue and Kilbourn Avenue is two blocks (approximately 800 feet) west of Kostner Ave and is directly across the street from Irene Hernandez Family Picnic Area. This crossing is currently striped but without a signal. This would bring trail users into the parking lot, but does not provide direct trail access. The Forest Preserves has submitted a request to CDOT to see if a traffic crossing is possible at this location.

 

Q14: Will there be a traffic crossing at Forest Glen Avenue?

Q14: Will there be a traffic crossing at Forest Glen Avenue?

A mid-block traffic crossing with striped crosswalk and signage indicating the trail crossing will be installed. Any dead trees in close proximity that pose a hazard for trail users will be removed.

 

Q15: How will the trail cross Devon Avenue?

Q15: How will the trail cross Devon Avenue?

There is an existing light and striped cross walk with pedestrian crossing signals.

 

Q16: How will trail users be notified of trail closures or reroutes due to flooding?

Q16: How will trail users be notified of trail closures or reroutes due to flooding?

Updates on trail conditions are posted on the Forest Preserves website. Trail map signs could show the existing signed-on-street route that indicates alternative routes during flood conditions. Temporary signage indicating alternative routes could also be posted.

 

Q17: What historical and archaeological assets have been identified in this project?

Q17: What historical and archaeological assets have been identified in this project?

A research report prepared by the Forest Preserves consultant went directly to IDOT for their review. IDOT keeps this information confidential to ensure any sensitive findings are not disclosed.

 

Q18: When are future meetings and how is the best way to stay in touch?

Q18: When are future meetings and how is the best way to stay in touch?

Please email Kindy.Kruller@cookcountyil.gov to be added to the North Branch Trail Extension contact list.

Q19: Has there been any change in the plans to address concerns about conflicts between future trail users and motorists turning from Central Avenue onto Old Edgebrook streets (Louise and Prescott Streets)?

Q19: Has there been any change in the plans to address concerns about conflicts between future trail users and motorists turning from Central Avenue onto Old Edgebrook streets (Louise and Prescott Streets)?

Yes. The design plans for the 2016 trail project were updated to address concerns about the trail crossings along Central Avenue at Louise & Prescott streets.

 

The trail will run north-south along Central Avenue, but will angle west as users near intersections with Louise and Prescott streets. This alignment will create mid-block trail crossings at Louise and Prescott streets, rather than trail crossings at the intersections of Louise/Central and Prescott/Central. Click here to view a map of the new alignment.

 

Moving the trail crossings further to the west of Central Avenue at those two locations mitigates safety concerns for trail users and automobile traffic. The new trail route also alleviates additional traffic build-up on Central Avenue as cars will not need to wait at the intersection. There is room for up to four vehicles to turn onto Louise and Prescott streets before reaching the trail crossings at mid-block.

 

Relocation will not impact any wetlands. Considerations were also made to minimize site disruptions, limit tree removal and maintain the existing hydrology. The change to the plans was developed with input from the community and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) following American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) and Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standards. As a federally funded project the trail modification was reviewed and approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Traffic Bureau.

 

Q20: Has there been consideration of suggested alternatives raised by residents to the proposed routing on the east side of Central Avenue south of the Devon-Caldwell-Lehigh intersection?

Q20: Has there been consideration of suggested alternatives raised by residents to the proposed routing on the east side of Central Avenue south of the Devon-Caldwell-Lehigh intersection?

Yes, but each of these raised additional problems and concerns that were considered more difficult to solve than conflicts where the trail crosses Louise and Prescott Streets. The suggestion that we construct a bridge across Central Avenue at the Devon-Caldwell-Lehigh-Central Avenue intersection is problematic because of substantial cost and significant additional tree loss. Another suggestion that we route the trail at the perimeter of the golf course was not feasible because there is inadequate room outside the floodplain the entire way. A third suggestion to route the trail through the Forest Preserves south of Devon onto McClellan and Prescott streets. This suggestion would also require significant tree loss and does not meet the project goals of offering a safer, more natural alternative to riding on-street.

 

Q21: Why will the trail be routed under Cicero and the Expressway? Those of us who live in the Forest Glen community know that the area underneath the highways are under water with a great deal of frequency. This condition would render the trail unusable at those times.

Q21: Why will the trail be routed under Cicero and the Expressway? Those of us who live in the Forest Glen community know that the area underneath the highways are under water with a great deal of frequency. This condition would render the trail unusable at those times.

We looked at all options for the trail to cross Cicero and the Highway. Ultimately, our goal is to create an off-road trail that eliminates as many trail and road conflicts as possible, so to go under the road is the best option. We use underpasses throughout the Forest Preserves as a means of crossing busy roads and highways. We know flooding with all underpasses is possible but typically underpasses that flood will only be affected by standing water for a limited time.

 

Q22: The community has safety concerns about the underpasses because of its isolation and lack of egress, how will this be handled?

Q22: The community has safety concerns about the underpasses because of its isolation and lack of egress, how will this be handled?

Safety is our top priority. We are using similar trail designs and access to the northern 18 miles of the North Branch Trail. The existing North Branch Trail is very safe and has limited issues related to crime.

Q23: Will stop signs be installed on the trail?

Q23: Will stop signs be installed on the trail?

Yes, stop signs are in the current plans and will be installed at all trail intersections.

 

Q24: Can rumble strips, speed bumps or right angle (slow zone) be installed on the trail?

Q24: Can rumble strips, speed bumps or right angle (slow zone) be installed on the trail?

Rumble strips, speed bumps and right angle (slow zone) do not meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) guidelines or ADA Accessibility Guidelines that are required by federally-funded trails.

 

Progressive turn radiuses are preferred to right angles as are trails without barriers which would require users to get off of their bikes in order to maneuver certain sections of trail.

 

Q25: Can trail lighting be installed at the Prescott and Louise?

Q25: Can trail lighting be installed at the Prescott and Louise?

Street lighting currently exists on Prescott and Louise within 10 feet of the trail crossing. We do not light our trails for environmental reasons. Additionally, forest preserves and trails are only open from sunrise to sunset.

 

Q26: Why did construction get divided into two phases or stages?

Q26: Why did construction get divided into two phases or stages?

Construction bids came in 26 percent over budget. Rather than postpone the start of the project for a second round of bidding, we divided the project into two stages based on available Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) funding.

 

Stage 1 is from Devon and Caldwell to Forest Glen Avenue. Stage 2 is from Forest Glen Avenue to Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Area.

 

Q27: When will construction start?

Q27: When will construction start?

Construction for Stage 1 (Devon and Caldwell to Forest Glen Avenue) is scheduled to start November 30, 2015. Construction for Stage 2 began in August 2016.

 

Q28: What is the status of Stage 2?

Q28: What is the status of Stage 2?

Stage 2 (Forest Glen Avenue to Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Area) has been approved for additional funding. We received $1.6 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds to supplement existing Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funding. The contract for Stage 2 construction was awarded in July 2016, and construction began in August 2016.

 

 

Q29: What public engagement has happened to inform the trail alignment and design?

Q29: What public engagement has happened to inform the trail alignment and design?

  • April 2016 – Forest Glen Community Club
  • August 2014 – Town Hall meeting
  • June 2014 – Forest Glen Community Club / Bike Advisory Committee
  • December 2013 – North Mayfair, Peterson Park and Mayfair Community Associations
  • October 2013 – Forest Glen community meeting
  • September 2013 – Town Hall meeting
  • June 2013 – Field visit with Alderman Laurino, Commissioner Gainer’s staff, Indian Woods and Forest Glen communities
  • October 2012 – Field visit with Alderman Laurino
  • September 2012 – Indian Woods Community Association meeting
  • December 2011 – Walk alignment from LaBagh Woods to Cicero with Alderman Laurino
  • November 2011 – Forest Glen Community Association / Alderman Arena
  • August 2010 – Open House notice sent to adjacent communities
  • 2009 – Commissioners and Alderman meeting
  • 2008 – Site Stewards meeting

 

Q30: What will the two bridges look like?

Q30: What will the two bridges look like?

Renderings were not done, but plans for each can be accessed below:

 

Q31: What signage will the crossing at Forest Glen Avenue include?

Q31: What signage will the crossing at Forest Glen Avenue include?

 

Q32: Were water trail improvements considered as a part of the trail update?

Q32: Were water trail improvements considered as a part of the trail update?

No, but this is an excellent suggestion and we will consider for future improvements.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County