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posted: 1/14/2014 10:39 AM

Extend: Cost a concern

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the dates design and construction could begin on a potential south extension of the Naperville Riverwalk

A plan to extend the boundary of Naperville's downtown Riverwalk farther south could be approved later this month, but lengthening the path is not exactly right around the corner.

If the city council approves the extension, a new section of the Riverwalk could be designed beginning in spring 2016. Construction, however, would not be scheduled to begin until spring 2018, said Jeff Havel, Riverwalk Commission chairman.

Extending the boundaries of the 1.75-mile path south from Hillside Road to Martin Avenue has been approved by the Naperville park board and is heading to the city council Jan. 21.

"Trails and connectivity consistently rank near the top of what residents care about," said Rich Janor, park board president. "Anytime we can extend a trail or something like the Riverwalk, we see it as a plus."

The new segment of Riverwalk would run one long block south between Hillside and Martin, and Havel said early estimates show it could cost as much as $2.7 million to build and nearly $300,000 to design. Funding would be factored into the city's budget and the park district then would maintain the new segment of path.

Preliminary designs show the extended walkway would include a plaza at Hillside Road similar to the one at the Riverwalk's north end at Jefferson Avenue.

The path then would continue under the bridge at Hillside, meandering a little farther away from the river onto land owned by the city.

Havel said designs include a bridge and rain gardens over a drainage area, work to restore the shoreline, landscaping improvements and a second plaza near the intersection of Hillside and Washington Street.

The path's new end would filter users to a sidewalk near Edward Hospital and Knoch Park that could help improve pedestrian connectivity to those areas.

Bicycles would not be allowed on the proposed south extension for consistency with a rule prohibiting bikes on the rest of the Riverwalk.

Several city council members say an extended Riverwalk would be a nice amenity.

Council member Robert Fieseler said it could fill part of "an unfortunate gap" in pedestrian paths between Gartner and Hillside roads along Washington Street.

Havel thinks the council will approve the new boundary, especially because the idea of extending the walkway originally came up during council discussions in summer 2012 about a property at Hillside and Washington.

But at least one council member is concerned about the potential cost of building a longer Riverwalk.

Steve Chirico said he would not be willing to take out a loan for the project, but if it could be funded using donations and volunteer labor, he thinks it would be a plus.

Havel said the $2.7 million construction estimate likely is on the high side, as the Riverwalk Commission has factored in funds for price escalation and contingencies.

The Riverwalk Foundation will seek support from donors or grants that might be available through programs encouraging cleanup of rivers that also could help decrease costs.

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