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Chunk Of Lakefront Trail To Close As City Preps New Bike, Running Paths

By  Heather Cherone and Ted Cox | May 15, 2017 7:54am | Updated on May 23, 2017 11:31am

CHICAGO — The effort to make the Lakefront Trail less congested by creating separate paths for cyclists and joggers will force a portion of the popular path to close starting May 22, city officials said.

The trail will be closed east of Lake Shore Drive between Diversey Parkway and North Avenue starting May 22, according to a statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. A marked detour will take trail users west of Lake Shore Drive, officials said. The city did not say how long the stretch would be closed.

Construction will also take place from Oak to Ohio streets, where a lane will allow cyclists and joggers to navigate around the crews, officials said.

Crews will limit the use of heavy equipment during the trail's most heavily-trafficked hours in the mornings and evenings, officials said.

Trail users can track the process of the construction and map detours by going to chicagoparkdistrict.com/lakefront-trail, officials said.

Emanuel said, once complete, the separated trail will enhance the Lakefront, which the mayor called one of the city's greatest assets.

"This is an important next step in continued efforts to make the Lakefront Trail safer and more accessible for thousands of cyclists, runners and walkers that use the path each day," Emanuel said in a statement.

In March 2016, Emanuel announced plans to add nearly 6 acres of green space where Lake Michigan used to be at Fullerton Avenue, as well as building separate paths for runners and bicyclists along 7 miles between Fullerton and Ohio Street and from 31st Street to 51st Street.

A $12 million gift from Ken Griffin — Illinois' richest man and one of Emanuel's biggest campaign donors — will allow the Park District to separate the remaining 11 miles of the trail, which is flooded with runners and bicyclists during warm — or less-than-frigid — weather.

The separated trail between 31st Street to 41st Street is expected to completely open by Memorial Day, the mayor's office said.

The asphalt bike trail will be 12 feet wide, while the pedestrian trail will be 20 feet wide with 14 feet of asphalt and 6 feet of soft surface mix on either side, officials said.

Emanuel broke ground on the project this weekend, joined Saturday morning by Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly and billionaire Griffin at Lake Shore Drive and Fullerton Parkway.

Cyclists, runners and lakefront strollers have complained for years about congestion on the trail, especially in the pinch points between Fullerton and North Avenue and along the Gold Coast between Oak and Ohio streets.

Griffin got involved with a $12 million gift to the city announced late last year. Before that, the avid cyclist wrote in an email to Emanuel (released in a Freedom of Information Act request) that "the lakefront bike path is a disaster."

"I am excited to see us taking another step forward towards making the Lakefront Trail safer and more enjoyable for everyone in Chicago,” Griffin said Saturday. “I appreciate all of the efforts that have gone into this great project and applaud Mayor Emanuel and Supt. Kelly for their continued leadership."

Kelly cheered input from cycling and running advocates — namely the Active Transportation Alliance and the Chicago Area Runners Association — in arriving at the final plans for the separation, adding, "We are fortunate to have the support of Mr. Griffin to bring the trail separation project to fruition."

It's part of a grand design to separate cyclists and pedestrians along the entire 18 miles of the Lakefront Trail.

The stretch between Fullerton and North will get two new bike lanes going in opposite directions, while pedestrians get the old path. Because of the more extensive construction in that area, the path will detour west of Diversey Harbor while work is ongoing.

Due to less room to work with east of Lake Shore Drive on the Gold Coast, the stretch between Oak and Ohio, meanwhile, will get four adjacent lanes designated for cyclists and pedestrians.

Work on the two stretches is expected to be completed this summer, but extending that south will have to wait for completion of the more complicated Navy Pier flyover.