The proposed path along Van Buren Street | Drawing from Christopher B. Burke Engineering

The Forest Park Village Council voted unanimously July 25 to go out to bid for the long-discussed project to build a bike and walking path along the section of Van Buren Street between Madison Street and the Forest Park Blue Line el station.

When completed, the path will connect to the Illinois Prairie Path bike and walking trail, which runs from Forest Park to Elgin and other western suburbs. It would also link up to the proposed south extension of the Des Plaines River Trail, which would run along Thatcher Avenue in River Forest and along Madison Street in Forest Park. The bids are due on Aug. 18, so the village council could potentially choose the bidder as soon as Aug. 22.

According to the bid documents included in the village council meeting packet, the 10-foot-wide path will be built on the west side of Van Buren Street, the side that largely faces the historic Altenheim retirement community land.  The path is designed to be wide enough to allow bicyclists and walkers to travel in both directions without worrying about passing cars. The project also includes directional signs for the Illinois Prairie Path. 

The village budgeted $495,000 for Phase III engineering and construction in November 2020 and Cook County agreed to cover half of that through the annual Invest in Cook County grant.  Forest Park will cover the rest through its Village Improvement Program fund. 

According to the agreement between the county and the village, the county has a right to review the bids within seven days. Forest Park will be responsible for maintaining the path once it’s done. 

The Forest Park el station is a major transit hub, where riders can transfer to multiple Pace bus routes serving the surrounding suburbs. The buses come equipped with bike racks, and riders can bring bikes on board the el trains during off-peak hours.

The 61-mile-long Illinois Prairie Path largely follows the Chicago Aurora and Elgin Railroad interurban train line right of way. The trail goes to Wheaton, where it splits off into two branches, one going to Elgin and one going to Aurora. 

The 55-mile-long Des Plaines River Trail runs along or near the eponymous river, stopping just short of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. But the trail currently doesn’t go further south than North Avenue in River Forest. The south extension is currently expected to be built either later this year or in 2023. 

The village council approved the resolution sending the project out to bid unanimously and without discussion.