Part of the Des Plaines River Trail in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Credit: Active Transportation Alliance

DUNNING — Improvements to parts of the Des Plaines River Trail are scheduled to begin this month after years of planning and fundraising.

Construction prep began this week on the 1.2-mile segment of the trail between Bryn Mawr Avenue in Dunning and Lawrence Avenue in Norridge, said Carl Vogel, director of communications for the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Crews are set to add fences to prevent erosion of the trail and remove vegetation to make way for a boardwalk and pedestrian bridge come early next year, Vogel said.

Trail markers for the new offsets and where some trees will be removed are being put in, Vogel said.

Crews will repair and upgrade the Bryn Mawr-Lawrence stretch of the unpaved trail and add about 1,000 feet of boardwalk in a section near the river that frequently floods, with an aim to raise the path above the 100-year river flood elevation, officials said in a news release.

The pedestrian bridge over Lawrence Avenue will bring the path above the street as opposed to underneath, as it is now, which will also help prevent flooding. The bridge will look similar to the one on the North Branch Trail that goes over the Metra tracks near the LaBagh Woods in Edgebrook, Vogel said.

The North Branch Trail Bridge over Metra tracks near LaBagh Woods. Credit: Provided

The bridge work will also realign the trail, moving it away from where there is flooding and aligning it closer to the new bridge, Vogel said. A new trail spur to and along Lawrence will be added to connect with neighborhoods in Norridge and the city.

Signal and ADA improvements are also happening at the intersection of East River Road and Lawrence Avenue as part of the upgrade, officials said.

All of the improvements should be completed by September, officials said.

“This investment is a continuation of our work with partners to improve the Des Plaines River Trail, one of our most popular trail systems,” Forest Preserves General Supt. Arnold Randall said in a statement. “The more than 350 miles of trails throughout the Forest Preserves of Cook County offer easy access to get out in nature and promote healthy living and greener methods of transportation.” 

Improvements to the Des Plaines River Trail on the Bryn Mawr-Lawrence segment will repair and upgrade the unpaved trail surface and add approximately 1,000 feet of boardwalk in a section near the river that frequently floods to raise the path. A new trail spur along Lawrence to connect with neighborhoods in Norridge and Chicago is also planned. Credit: Forest Preserves of Cook County

The upcoming improvements will increase safety and access to the trail, officials previously said.

The project on the 5.4 miles of the trail is projected to cost $7.9 million, with 80 percent funded by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program, officials said.

The last 20 percent is being funded by the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways using Motor Fuel Tax dollars. 

The trail improvements also call for a slight name change: The full Des Plaines Trail System, 28.4 miles of paved and unpaved paths through preserves and small towns in Lake and Cook counties, will now be called the Des Plaines River Trail System to highlight its proximity to the river, Vogel.

It will still casually be called the Des Plaines River Trail, Vogel said.

The Des Plaines River Trail is one of the most popular routes in the Chicago area. Over the past decade, the Forest Preserves of Cook County worked to identify segments needing improvements, including parts of the southern route that runs through the Far Northwest Side and nearby suburbs.

Parts of the trail between Catherine Chevalier Woods and Robinson Woods will close or be restricted to complete the work, officials said.

Other plans to continue revitalizing portions of the trail will are in the works for next year, officials said.

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