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North Branch Trail Second Phase Delayed As Price Tag Soars

 Plans call for the North Branch Bicycle Trail south from Edgebrook to Mayfair.
Plans call for the North Branch Bicycle Trail south from Edgebrook to Mayfair.
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Cook County Forest Preserve

FOREST GLEN — Plans to build the final phase of the North Branch Trail from Forest Glen to Mayfair are on hold after the price tag for the multiuse path soared beyond the project's $2 million budget, Cook County Forest Preserve District officials said Monday.

Construction began in November on the first stage of the trail extension, which will stretch two miles from Devon and Caldwell avenues in Edgebrook to Forest Glen Avenue near the Metra station on the Milwaukee District North Line.

The entire three-mile extension of the trail from Edgebrook to Mayfair would allow runners, walkers and bikers to travel from from the Lakefront Bicycle Path to the Chicago Botanic Gardens in the North Shore.

 Bicycles and cars ride through the 6100 block of Central Avenue in Edgebrook, where the planned extension of the North Branch Bicycle Trail is slated to cross Central Avenue.
Bicycles and cars ride through the 6100 block of Central Avenue in Edgebrook, where the planned extension of the North Branch Bicycle Trail is slated to cross Central Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

Forest Preserve officials got two bids from firms interested in building the mile-long second phase of the trail from Forest Glen Avenue to Gompers Park in Mayfair, one for nearly $2.5 million and the other for $3.1 million, documents show.

Because that exceeds the $2 million cost estimate for the second phase of the hotly anticipated trail, forest preserve officials have asked the Illinois Department of Transportation to ask interested firms to bid again for the project, said Stacina Stagner, communications manager for the forest preserve district.

This is the second time bids to build the trail have come in way above budget.

In June, forest preserve officials put plans for the off-road trail extension on hold after proposals to build the three-mile trail all at once came in $2 million more than expected. In October, officials announced the trail would be built in two phases.

Construction of the first phase of the trail extension will cost $5.3 million, officials said.

The entire trail extension — in the works since 2008 — had been expected to cost $7.7 million, with 80 percent coming from the federal government and the rest coming from the forest preserve district, officials said.

The forest preserve district plans to use a $1.6 million federal grant from the Transportation Alternatives Program to cover most of its share of the second phase of the trail.

Had the initial bids for the second phase of the trail come in on budget, the two phases of the trail could have been built at the same time, officials said. It is unclear how long the second part of the phase will now be delayed, officials said.

The first stage is expected to take at least year to build, officials said.

Some Edgebrook residents objected to the alignment of the trail, contending that it will snarl traffic along Central Avenue by installing a traffic signal at the forest preserve volunteer resource center, 6100 N. Central Ave. in Edgebrook, to allow users of the trail to cross Central Avenue and continue south.

Others objected to the trail because it will require that 425 trees be chopped down.

About half of those trees are dead or nonnative plants that need to be removed regardless of the trail's construction, forest preserve district officials said.

The trail will require that a bridge be built over the Chicago River east of Central Avenue and north of Indian Road.

Another bridge will be built to allow the trail to soar over the Milwaukee District North Line Metra tracks near Indian Road and Ardmore Avenue.

The trail will cross the Edens Expressway via an existing underpass that will be rehabbed, and a new underpass will be built to allow the trail to cross Cicero north of LaBagh Woods in Forest Glen.

Once completed, the extension of the North Branch Trail could connect to a trail being built along a defunct railway known as the Weber Spur. That project is in the initial stages.

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