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A Bike Trail Along The Entire Chicago River? It Could Happen

By Paul Biasco | March 24, 2016 5:34am | Updated on March 26, 2016 2:16pm

A rendering of a new segment of the North Branch bike path, as it rises above the Chicago River. 

THE LOOP — Transportation advocacy groups are eyeing what could be the holy grail of bike trail locations for Chicago's next big project — the Chicago River.

Banking on the massive popularity of the 606 and the buzz around the recently announced Paseo, which will be built along an abandoned railway between Pilsen and Little Village, the Chicago River is the next frontier, according to Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance.

The path, if it ever comes to fruition, would serve as a grand artery cutting through the North and South sides of the city to the Loop and lakefront.

"This is one of our top priorities," Burke said. "Obviously, this isn't going to happen overnight, but you've got to start somewhere."

Paul Biasco talks about the idea of a bike path along the entire river.

Burke and his team from the influential transportation group envision a trail that would be laid along both branches of the river.

The project is in the early stages, but Active Transportation Alliance is about to begin meeting with transportation planners, partnering with the city, Friends of the Chicago River and other groups to lay out a vision of what a trail along the river would look like.

Meetings are scheduled to start this summer with a goal of coming up with a vision document.

"Imagine how popular a trail along the Chicago River would be going Downtown," Burke said. "It would be really long and go through so many neighborhoods and connect at the Riverwalk."

The path would more than likely be built in segments and would face obstacles at some points along the river where buildings butt directly to the edge of the water.

"I think the success of the 606 has created more support for this kind of urban trail," Burke said. "People are like 'wow this is awesome, can we get more of this?'"

Burke said a number of development projects along the North Branch of the river that are under construction or will be in the future would benefit the river trail project, as any new development along the river must include a minimum 30-foot setback from the water.

A proposed bike path that would soar over the Chicago River, at one point connecting a string of parks along the water from Belmont to Montrose avenues already is moving forward.

A rendering of the multiuse path as it passes under Addison Street. [Chicago Department of Transportation]

That project, which when complete would measure nearly 2 miles long, is expected to be ready by next year.

"It's one of those long-term investments that just makes sense for the City of Chicago," Burke said.

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