Des Plaines Trail Improvements

A person jogging on the Des Plaines Trail.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is working on several projects on the Des Plaines Trail System to improve trail user experience, enhance safety and explore extending the trail.

On this page:

Rail Crossing Improvement Between Golf Ave & Central Ave

The Forest Preserves is completing preliminary engineering for improving the rail crossing between Golf Rd and Central Rd where there is a trail gap.  The railroad tracks north of Golf Rd create a significant interruption to the trail’s continuity, present an unsafe environment for trail users and discourage use of the trail by residents of neighboring communities. This engineering study is funded by Invest in Cook.

May 17, 2019 Open House Summary

The Forest Preserves hosted a public Open House on May 17, 2019 at the Des Plaines Public Library to share initial findings for improvement options to complete the Des Plaines Trail gap between Golf and Central Avenues where Union Pacific Railroad tracks currently bisect the trail. Over 30 attendees viewed and commented on the exhibits, asked questions of the staff and consultants, and provided feedback on the trail. Most attendees supported the bridge over the railroad. The meeting exhibits and a FAQ list are below.

What is the timeline?

The approximate project timeline is contingent on approved funded and approval from the various agencies:

  • June 2018 First Steering Committee
  • Nov 2018 Second Steering Committee
  • April 2019 FPCC Submitted for:
    • Invest in Cook funds for Phase 2 Eng. (pending)
    • ICC Grade Crossing Protection Funding and TIP/CMAQ funding for Phase3 & Construct (pending)
  • May 2019 Public Open House
  • June 2019 Submit Project Development Report “PDR”
  • Oct 2020 Anticipated start, Phase II Engineering
    • Prepare construction documents
    • Construction bidding
  • January 2021 Anticipated start, Construction
  • Fall 2021 Anticipated Completion/ Opening

Who are the approving agencies?

The Forest Preserves of Cook County as the owner will be approving the design along with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Cook County Division of Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, Illinois Commerce Commission and ComEd.

How will ComEd access their site with the new improvements?

There will be no change in access for ComEd. Two existing ComEd towers are located east of the proposed bridge, and access to these towers will continue from East River Road. The next towers are west of the UP Railroad, and access will continue to be from Golf Road or Central Road.

What will the temporary and permanent plantings be along the improvements?

Temporary erosion control methods will be placed during construction of the improvement. No new plantings are anticipated except for possibly a few along where the existing trail will no longer be used because of rerouting, and in areas used for temporary construction purposes.

What will happen to old section of trail?

The existing trail aggregate surface will be removed and replaced with topsoil and seed and possible new trees where space allows.

Will equestrians be allowed on the bridge?

Because of the limitations of the site logistics and alignment, it is unlikely that equestrians will be able to be accommodated on the bridge. Horses and bikes don’t mix well in tight surroundings, such as will exist on the proposed bridge, particularly due to the length of the bridge and the curves that will be required to fit in the space. The clearance between the equestrians and the ComEd clear zone does not meet the preferred 12-foot equestrian height requirement. At the Open House, participant commented that perhaps equestrians could be required to dismount and walk their horse over the bridge. Although the issue of user conflicts would still be present, that option could be considered.

What will be the impact to the residences along East River Road?

There will be at least several hundred feet between the trail and the townhomes on the south side of ComEd, and the same distance from the existing homes on the north side. The only properties that will have a significant view of the bridge are the two parcels on either side of ComEd. The south parcel is currently a yard waste site and the north parcel is vacant. In the winter, however, some residences will likely be able to see the bridge since no leaves would be on the trees.

Why was Alternate A the recommended alignment?

All of the other alignments had various associated issues that severely limited or removed their capacity: The alignment through Oakton Community College would require approval from the UP Railroad since it would require work to be done within their right-of-way at the bridge over Golf Road. Plus, it would be a lengthy realignment from the existing trail for trail users.

The alignment through the Kloempken Prairie would also require UP Railroad approval and would impact a high-quality wetland area. Adding warning signals and gates to the existing crossing is not feasible to be approved (and has already been denied) by the UP Railroad. The option of an underpass has been rejected by the UP Railroad, is not acceptable within their design requirements, would require a pump station to mitigate flooding, and would be very costly due to the impacts to the existing tracks.

An alignment along East River Road was not recommended since approval would again be required from the UP Railroad due to required widened crossing work at the existing roadway crossing, and easements and significant tree removal would be required from almost every property owner along the west side of the road.

Improvements from North Ave to Touhy Ave

The Village of Rosemont, West Central Municipal Conference and the Forest Preserves are completing a preliminary engineering study on an 8.5-mile segment of the Des Plaines Trail System from North Ave to Touhy Ave. The West Central Municipal Conference and eight west suburban municipalities recognize that improvements are needed to make the trail usable following heavy rain storms, when river flooding makes much of the trail impassable.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning identifies the trail as a regionally-significant facility in its Northeastern Illinois Regional Greenways and Trails Plan because of its recreational value and the connections it provides between communities, parks, open spaces and other natural areas. This project is funded by Invest in Cook.

Active Transportation Alliance initiated a study and developed a plan for this corridor:

February 19, 2020 Meeting Summary

The Des Plaines River Trail Advisory Group and Forest Preserves hosted a Public Open House on February 19, 2020 at the Franklin Park Police Station to share initial improvement options for the Des Plaines Trail between North Ave and Touhy Ave.

Attendees viewed and commented on exhibits, asked questions of staff and consultants, and provided feedback on the trail. Most attendees supported making trail improvements to create a more usable trail.

Couldn’t attend? Submit written comments to Melissa McGhee at until March 4, 2020. Let us know if you prefer pavement or crushed limestone as a trail surface, and if you have any preferred trail alignments.

South Extension Planning Study

Salt Creek Trail to Chicago Portage

The Des Plaines Trail System currently ends at Sunset Bridge Meadow, just north of North Ave. There is a gap, or missing segment, between North Ave and Ogden Ave approximately 6.5 miles in length. South of this gap, in the Village of Lyons, the Des Plaines Trail runs for approximately 1.3 miles from the Cermak Family Aquatic Center on Ogden Ave, south to the Chicago Portage National Historic Site.

A planning study focused on the southern-most segment of the gap between W 26th St and Ogden Ave was completed in November 2019. The goal of the project is to identify the most feasible alignment or route in this area, along with key community connector routes in the villages of Brookfield, Riverside, North Riverside and Lyons. This study was done through a CMAP Local Technical Assistance project.

The West Central Municipal Conference is taking the lead on the next step for completing a Phase 1 study in 2020 using STP funds to cover 80% of the costs and the Forest Preserves along with area municipalities will provide the 20% match.

This study is a first step toward the goal of closing the entire 6.5-mile gap and creating a connection between the Illinois Prairie Path and Salt Creek Greenway.

Current Activities

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is leading the planning study: