CHICAGO — Connecting the popular 606 Trail to a continuous riverfront path is just one of the big ideas included in the detailed "Chicago River Trail Action Plan" released Thursday by the Active Transportation Alliance.
After sharing a high-level summary of the report in October, the alliance now is putting meat on the plan's bones. Specific recommendations encompass everything from major infrastructure projects to minor sign improvements.
The advocacy group consulted with community organizations and city agencies on its proposals. Although the centerpiece of the plan is a 27-mile continuous river trail, the alliance also focused on the need for user-friendly connections to the waterway for pedestrians and cyclists approaching from the east and west.
The plan separates the riverfront into seven "zones" — from Edison Park on the Northwest Side to Archer Heights on the Southwest Side — and notes existing conditions, areas of opportunity and needed improvements.
Among the "big ideas": Create a network of neighborhood greenways on the Northwest Side to overcome barriers, such as highways and railroad embankments, that limit access to the North Branch Trail.
An elaborate rendering demonstrates how the 606 could connect to a Chicago River Trail via underpasses, ramps and bridges.
On a far smaller scale, the alliance points out areas where simply painting new stripes for bike lanes would make it safer for cyclists to get to the river.
The Chicago River Trail Action Plan is merely advisory; the alliance seeks to build consensus and identify priorities to move development forward.
The recent push for a continuous trail is aimed in part at taking advantage of a "unique window of opportunity," according to the alliance.
With a number of public and private projects either underway or scheduled to break ground along the river, several miles of trail could rapidly come to fruition, and coordination is necessary, the report states.
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