A release issued at the end of March outlined an upcoming plan led by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in partnership with Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) commissioner Gia Biagi, Department of Planning and Development (DPD) commissioner Maurice Cox, and Chicago Park District interim general superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño to expand trails and open space networks throughout the city.
The plan includes a proposed $15 million commitment toward a dozen green infrastructure projects citywide. The individual projects will be led locally with support from DPD, CDOT, and the Chicago Park District. City government will be working closely with key community stakeholders to orchestrate each project and identify funding opportunities for engineering and construction, through federal grants made possible by the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure package.
Not only will this be a highly collaborative plan, but it will also add 48 total miles to Chicago’s existing 79-mile trail network, creating an abundance of new opportunities for recreation and transportation for city dwellers. The ultimate goal as presented by city leaders is promoting the health and well-being of residents and visitors.
As previously stated, relevant city agencies are working closely with community leaders to plan each project. The close nature of this collaboration aims to ensure that community needs are accounted for and prioritized.
Community input will be vital to the success of these efforts and in building community wellness, as well as wealth.
“DPD will work with the Department of Housing to incorporate anti-displacement strategies along each corridor as we develop framework plans of trails projects across the City,” said commissioner Maurice Cox. “We will ensure that community needs are front and center of these investments and that we put guardrails in place to curb gentrification forces.”
Nick Sposato, alderman and chairman of the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs, and Recreation added, “These investments improve the quality of life for our residents and help communities to develop and grow.”
According to the release the city will continue to advance and update the Mayor’s trails vision in the coming years to take the best advantage of available local, state, and federal green infrastructure funding opportunities. CDOT plans to submit a USDOT RAISE grant application at some point this month for design and engineering funding to build the first of these trails: Englewood Nature Trail. This trail’s plan includes a linear park along the 1.5-mile-long 59th Street rail embankment and will be funded in part by $6 million in local funds and pending federal assistance. If successful, the city could receive up to $45 million of federal funds to assist in the completion of this transformational project.
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I really hope the momentum on this continues and we build continuous safe biking paths so we can safely traverse the city from North to South, East to West.
I’m especially excited for the Kenwood Embankment project (#16) and hope this one moves forward sooner rather than later.