PILSEN — The Southwest Side’s proposed El Paseo Trail is on hold after being left out of a citywide plan to expand bike and pedestrian paths throughout the city, according to local aldermen.
The project, which would create a 4.2 mile-long stretch of greenway in Pilsen and Little Village along the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail line, has been controversial among residents who have questioned how it would impact housing.
The project was not included among a dozen pedestrian- and bike-friendly projects Mayor Lori Lightfoot and city officials are supporting to add 48 miles of trails and better connect the city’s “corridor” system, The Daily Line reported.
Pilsen’s Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said the main hold-up is the trail’s location, which is near the neighborhood’s industrial corridor. He said it poses safety concerns to have cyclists and pedestrians concentrated in an area so heavy with truck traffic and pollution.
One example of a nearby industry is Sims Metal Management, 2500 S. Paulina St., which has recently drawn heavy criticism from Southwest Side environmental advocates for its pollution. Its facility is located just down the block from where the El Paseo would be situated.
“We want to have an industrial corridor that is in harmony with the residential area,” Sigcho-Lopez told Block Club. “We believe that this [project] needs to be done properly.”
Sigcho-Lopez said he and other community members have floated the idea of having a pedestrian and bike greenway along 16th Street, which is also home to a rich history of Pilsen murals. He said he intends to have a community meeting on the matter this month.
Little Village’s Ald. Mike Rodriguez (22nd) said he hopes concerns over how the trail would affect cost of living nearby can be addressed while the plans are on hold.
Housing prices near The 606 have soared, and Southwest Siders worry the El Paseo could speed up gentrification in a similar way.
“We’ve all agreed to make it community focused,” Rodriguez said. “We have to prioritize affordable housing.”
City officials didn’t respond to a request for comment about the project.
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