WEST RIDGE — The North Shore Channel Trail, which runs from Lincoln Square to Evanston, has always had a problem — the North Shore Channel.
A significant portion of the trail runs along the west side of the channel, with the remainder on the east. Separated by the waterway, east is forced to meet west via a hazardous, makeshift connection that sends trail users onto a heavily trafficked portion of Lincoln Avenue.
Residents have long called for a pedestrian/bike bridge over the channel, and the Chicago Department of Transportation is about to make that wish a reality.
At a recent community meeting hosted by the 50th Ward, CDOT presented a plan for the "Lincoln Village Pedestrian Bicycle Bridge."
Preliminary engineering and design work has been completed on the proposed 16-foot-wide, 180-foot-long bridge. According to the project schedule provided by CDOT, construction on the span is expected to begin in winter 2018.
Small connectors, like this bridge and a recently opened extension of the North Branch Trail, can make a huge impact, according to Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance.
"When it comes to biking and walking, people are looking for low-stress routes," Burke said.
"What we often run into in urban environments, you're moving along and boom, you run into an obstacle," he continued. "Those gaps in the low-stress network are impediments. Roughly 90 percent of riders are a little uneasy biking on a street with cars — when they run into a barrier street, they turn back."
Burke credited Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CDOT for prioritizing "connector" projects and going after federal grant dollars to pay for them.
According to CDOT, the $3.4 million North Shore Channel Bridge is being funded with a combination of federal and local dollars.
In addition to the bridge itself, the project encompasses fencing and lighting along both approaches to the bridge and landscaping and vegetation removal along overgrown areas surrounding the bridge.
Here's a brief visual sketch of the trail connector as it stands today (traveling north):
The North Shore Channel Trail starts near Lawrence and Francisco. The path continues along the Chicago River and North Shore Channel all the way to Evanston. [All photos DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]
Underpasses at Foster (detour currently in place), Bryn Mawr, Peterson and Lincoln (pictured) provide cyclists and pedestrians an unimpeded "low-stress" route through River and Legion parks. This section of the trail runs along the east side of the river.
The east side path ends abruptly once it passes under Lincoln Avenue. It picks up on the west side of the river. But how?
Pedestrians and cyclists take a 180-degree turn from the paved path and proceed up this dirt strip to Lincoln Avenue.
Here's where the dirt strip meets Lincoln Avenue, and the trail crosses the channel to the west-side leg. Most cyclists eschew the shared bike line on the heavily trafficked Lincoln in favor of the overpass's sidewalk.
The narrow sidewalk isn't wide enough for bikes traveling in both directions.
The west side of the trail starts here and runs parallel to the North Shore Channel all the way to Evanston, passing through the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park along the way.
The trail should become even more scenic once the Chicago Park District develops this land, currently dubbed "Park 526." The site is the former home of a long-vacant movie theater parking lot.
The project also encompasses landscaping of the area surrounding the proposed bridge. This canoe launch near the bridge's western access point, a magnet for taggers, is due for some TLC.
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