2030 Goal: Continuous riverfront trails

A continuous riverfront trail system would invite thousands of Chicagoans to our three rivers every day—for commuting, strolling, accessing the river, and more. These trails must be well integrated into the street grid, bike infrastructure and transit system.

“We need a continuous trail from north to south for both commuting and for fun.”

—Focus group participant

The Des Plaines River Trail will be well marked and well maintained, providing nearby residents, office workers and weekend visitors an unparalleled forest trail experience. (See page 63.) A network of completed and linked trails along the Calumet River—the Cal-Sag, Major Taylor, Burnham Greenway and more—will connect Chicagoans to employment centers, parks and preserves, river access points and Lake Michigan. On the northern reaches of the Chicago River, a series of under-bridge connections, floating or elevated trail segments, land easements and signs will fill remaining gaps, creating a seamless and easy to navigate trail experience from the Loop all the way to the northern suburbs. Comparable investments, plus stronger connections to the street grid where needed, will create a continuous trail experience from Western Avenue to the Loop along the southern reaches of the Chicago River, connecting to the El Paseo trail in Little Village and Pilsen. All trails should have physical connections and programming opportunities, wherever possible, to schools, libraries, parks and community organizations.
New investments in pedestrian and bike bridges, under-bridge connections and even auto bridges, where prudent, would connect Chicagoans to social, recreational and job opportunities “over the river,” making the rivers carriers to, rather than barriers to opportunities.

A continuous trail on the south branch

A continuous trail on the South Branch, with a new bridge over Bubbly Creek, could connect downtown to Little Village and a new park at the Collateral Channel.

Making it happen

  • Improve connectivity on the street grid between Calumet area trails, and fund completion of planned Calumet trails.
  • Develop consistent signage directing people from Chicago and suburban streets to and from the Des Plaines River Trail.
  • Conduct a feasibility assessment for a continuous trail along the South Branch of the Chicago River and Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, connecting to El Paseo and established on-street bike networks (see above).
  • Coordinate between agencies to assess opportunities for land acquisition, easements, bridges and under-bridge connections, floating or elevated trails and other strategies, as well as funding, to fill in trail gaps.

Key players

Chicago Dept. of Transportation, Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Active Transportation Alliance, Chicago Park District, Forest Preserves of Cook County, Ill. Dept. of Natural Resources, Ill. Dept. of Transportation, Trails for Illinois, suburban municipalities, Cook County Highway Department, bicycling advocates and enthusiasts

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