DuPage County officials working to get regional trail proposal back on track

DuPage County already has a wealth of options for cyclists, joggers and hikers looking to enjoy the green spaces in the county.

In addition to regional trails like the Illinois Prairie Path and the Great Western Trail, 60 forest preserves and numerous local walking and bike paths abound throughout the county.

Still, there is a regional trail project that DuPage officials have long envisioned - the East Branch DuPage River Trail.

The East Branch DuPage River Trail is a planned north-south trail that would bisect central DuPage and eventually connect Bloomingdale to Woodridge. It would allow people to safely walk, run or bicycle to various parks, forest preserves and existing regional trails.

It's an ambitious idea worth pursuing.

County and local government entities started laying the groundwork for the project in the early 2000s. Still, only bits and pieces of the trail have so far come to fruition.

Officials say issues with the proposed alignment caused a lack of progress on segments of the trail through Lombard and Glen Ellyn. So, the project languished for a while.

However, public interest has grown in recent years. Residents have organized petition drives, posted yard signs and met with elected officials to line up support for the trail's construction.

County officials now are attempting to get the project back on track.

On Saturday, Daily Herald senior writer Katlyn Smith reported that DuPage County's transportation department will pursue a preliminary engineering study for a four-mile section of the trail.

U.S. Rep. Sean Casten already has secured $1.2 million in federal funding for the engineering work. The county is providing $300,000 as a local contribution for the funds.

Smith reported that officials expect the study to begin in January and take between 24 and 30 months to complete.

"Our goal, of course, is to improve safety by connecting trail users to local and regional attractions, including downtowns, the DuPage County Forest Preserve, parks and the Morton Arboretum, just to name a few," DuPage County Board Chairwoman Deborah Conroy said.

North of Roosevelt Road, the proposed trail would generally follow the East Branch of the DuPage River along a route west of I-355. However, officials have been unable to identify a preferred route south of Roosevelt.

With the federal funding, DuPage officials hope to evaluate options for making the trail reach Hidden Lake Forest Preserve near Downers Grove and the neighboring Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Right now, there is no easy way to ride a bike to the arboretum without sharing the road with cars on busy Route 53.

With that and other obstacles, it would have been easy for county officials to abandon the possibility of finishing a path. To their credit, they are not ready to give up on the idea yet.

We hope officials find the solution they are looking for. A remarkable trail system in DuPage will become even better if they do.

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