Des Plaines Trail Improvements

A person jogging on the Des Plaines Trail.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County is working on projects in several sections of the extensive Des Plaines Trail System to improve trail user experience, enhance safety and better connect surrounding communities to the Forest Preserves.

On this page:

Rail Crossing Improvement Between Golf Ave & Central Ave

The Union Pacific Railroad tracks north of Golf Rd and south of Central Rd create a significant interruption to the Des Plaines Trail System’s continuity, present an unsafe environment for trail users and discourage use of the trail by residents of neighboring communities. To close this trail gap, the Forest Preserves will realign the trail and construct a bridge over the railroad tracks.

The Forest Preserves is working with a steering committee and partnering with other key stakeholders on this project: the Illinois Department of Transportation, Cook County Division of Transportation, Union Pacific Railroad, Illinois Commerce Commission and ComEd, which has powerline towers in the vicinity.

Options for different alignments for the bridge were presented at a public Open House on May 17, 2019 at the Des Plaines Public Library. More than 30 attendees viewed and commented on the exhibits, asked questions of the staff and consultants, and provided feedback on the trail.

Project Timeline

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

  • June 2018 First Steering Committee
  • Nov 2018 Second Steering Committee
  • April 2019 Forest Preserves of Cook County Submitted for:
    • Invest in Cook funds for Phase 2 engineering (Secured December 2019)
    • ICC Grade Crossing Protection Funding (Secured November 2019) and TIP/CMAQ funding for Phase 3 engineering & construction (Secured April 2019)
  • May 2019 Public Open House (Held May 17, 2019)
  • June 2019 Submit Project Development Report “PDR” (Submitted to IDOT, June 2019)
  • May 2021 Phase 2 engineering (Anticipated)
    • Prepare construction documents
    • Construction bidding
  • Winter 2021 Begin Bridge Construction (Anticipated)
  • Fall 2022 Complete Bridge (Anticipated)

Project Resources

a trail bridge over the Des Plaines River under construction at Bryn Mawr Ave
Catherine Chevalier Bridge – November 2020.

Catherine Chevalier Woods Bridge (Completed)

A 12-foot wide bridge over the Des Plaines River now connects Rosemont to the Des Plaines Trail, from Bryn Mawr Ave on the west side of the river to Catherine Chevalier Woods on the east. The bridge gives Rosemont residents and visitors direct bike and pedestrian access to the trail.

This $1.3 million project was funded by the State of Illinois (80%) and Village of Rosemont (20%). Construction started in August 2020 and the bridge opened in June 2021.

spring flooding covers the Des Plaines Trail
Typical spring flooding on the Des Plaines Trail.

Improvements from North Ave to Touhy Ave

The Village of Rosemont is conducting a feasibility study (or preliminary engineering study) for the 10-mile segment of the Des Plaines Trail System from North Ave to Touhy Ave on behalf of the Forest Preserves and Des Plaines Trail Advisory Group, which includes the West Central Municipal Conference, transportation agencies and bicycle advocacy organizations. The study will recommend improvements to address issues like flooding, safety at roadway and railroad crossings, trail access and trail user experience.

Invest in Cook and the West Central Municipal Conference are funding the feasibility study. The Forest Preserves is working with local municipalities and other funding partners to assemble the resources necessary for engineering and construction of the improvements identified in the feasibility study.

The feasibility study is separated into two parts: North Section (Touhy Ave to Irving Park Rd) and South Section (Irving Park Road to North Ave).

North Section (Touhy Ave to Irving Park Rd)

The 5.4-mile North Section (Touhy Ave to Irving Park Rd) is on higher and drier ground away from the river, which has put it on a faster track than the wetter South Section. The feasibility study for the North Section is drafted and under review by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

The Forest Preserves and municipalities surrounding the North Section are pursing federal funding opportunities for Phase 2 engineering and construction:

  • Touhy Ave to Devon Ave: The City of Park Ridge is pursuing Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) funds for trail improvements, including standardizing the width and texture of the trail, moving the mid-block crossing at Touhy Ave to the signaled intersection at Talcott Rd, and creating an at-grade crossing at the signaled intersection at Devon Ave and Dee Rd (eliminating the Devon Ave underpass).
  • Devon Ave to Bryn Mawr Ave: The Village of Rosemont is pursuing ITEP funds for reconstructing trail segments and improving crossings at Higgins Rd and Dee Rd.
  • Bryn Mawr Ave to Lawrence Ave: The Forest Preserves is pursuing Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for Phase 2 engineering plans for relocating the trail above the 100-year floodplain and constructing a pedestrian overpass at Lawrence Ave.
  • Lawrence Ave to Irving Park Rd: The Forest Preserves is pursuing CMAQ funds and the Village of Schiller Park is pursuing ITEP funds for Phase 2 engineering and construction for relocating the trail away from the river and out of the floodplain.

South Section (Irving Park Rd to North Ave)

The 4.9-mile South Section (Irving Park Rd to North Ave) closely follows the river and experiences more frequent and longer periods of flooding than the North Section. A feasibility study analyzed these flooding issues, along with road crossings and trail conflicts with railroad tracks and private property. The feasibility study considered:

  • Moving the trail out of the 100-year flood plain and away from the river, which would impact mature woodland and stream habitats.
  • Keeping the current alignment by building an expensive six to eight-foot elevated boardwalk to raise the trail out of the floodplain.  
  • Rerouting of the trail about a mile to the east, closer to Cumberland Rd.

Ultimately, rerouting the trail closer to Cumberland Rd was selected as the most effective way to address flooding and road crossing issues, while minimizing expense and impact on natural areas.

Project Resources

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: