Forest Park is applying for a grant to construct an asphalt path along the west side of Van Buren Street from Madison Street to the parking area/path near the CTA Blue Line Forest Park Transit Center. The project will also connect the existing Illinois Prairie Path to the proposed Desplaines River Trail project. | Rendering provided

Officials have identified sections of Forest Park and River Forest as the final pieces of the puzzle that will connect the 55-mile-long Des Plaines River Trail with the 61-mile-long Illinois Prairie Path, creating a continuous trail from the Wisconsin/Illinois border to Wheaton.

Originally, the Des Plaines River Trail stopped at North Avenue. However, plans have been developed to continue the trail through River Forest and connect with a planned bike path along Van Buren Street in Forest Park.

River Forest officials expressed support for the project at the Feb. 28 village board meeting, allowing the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to pursue funding opportunities to complete design/construction and permitting through the Illinois Department of Transportation. Jeff Loster, director of public works and development services, told officials that the River Forest and Elmwood Park sections are planned to undergo Phase 2 engineering and construction in 2022 or 2023, depending on funding. 

The River Forest section of the trail will mainly run along Thatcher Avenue between North Avenue and Madison Street with a smaller section running along Madison between Thatcher and Van Buren Street, where it will connect with a proposed biking/walking path in Forest Park.

The Forest Park Van Buren Street Multi-Use Path Improvement Plan calls for construction of 1,600 linear feet of a 10-foot-wide, asphalt, multi-use path along the west side of Van Buren between Madison and the CTA’s Des Plaines Avenue Blue Line Station, also called the Forest Park Transit Center. 

Forest Park officials learned in November that the village would receive a $247,500 Invest in Cook grant from Cook County to cover approximately half of the $540,000 estimated cost. The village will pay the remaining $292,500 from the Village Improvement Program fund. Bicyclists and walkers can access the Prairie Path through the Transit Center parking lot.

“Not everything is 100 percent right now in terms of plans being ready to go,” said Moses Amidei, village administrator. “We have to do some coordination with ComEd regarding some utility pole relocation west of Van Buren, just south of Madison, and we will be talking to the owner of the adjacent property regarding the placement of the path and potential right-of-way needs.

“The ComEd relocation will take a few months, so we’re looking to later this year in terms of scheduling. There still are some semantics that need to be worked out before we can go to construction. We’re looking at a time frame of later this summer or fall for the project. It’s not imminent, but it’s something we’d like to take care of it by the end of this year.” 

Amidei said he hopes to work with Maywood in the future on improving signage directing bicyclists and walkers from the Transit Center parking lot to the Prairie Path.

“It would be nice in the future if the path between the CTA parking lot and First Avenue could be better delineated,” he said. “That would require a joint effort by our village and Maywood but it won’t be pursued this year.”