Editorial: Growing the suburban trail system

Key trail link will capitalize on popular COVID-19 respite

  • A high-pressure gas line is being moved along Route 45 near Antioch to make way for a tunnel beneath the road to connect the Raven Glen and Ethel's Woods forest preserves.

      A high-pressure gas line is being moved along Route 45 near Antioch to make way for a tunnel beneath the road to connect the Raven Glen and Ethel's Woods forest preserves. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted2/18/2021 1:00 AM

Bikes for sale were almost as scarce as toilet paper during our 2020 summer of COVID-19. Seemingly everyone took to the trails, and not only on bicycles -- hikers, runners, skiers, snowshoers and horseback riders are sharing the space in a new surge of love for the suburbs' scenic and relatively virus-safe great outdoors.

We're enthusiastic about trail expansions to feed that fervor and to help us re-imagine a post-pandemic suburban lifestyle that might be a little less dependent on cars and a little more focused on outdoor recreation on public land.

 

A construction project in Lake County is under way to plug a gap in the impressive Millennium Trail, which in two decades has grown to about 31 miles. An underpass, one of a series on the trail system, will take trail users beneath Route 45 and connect Raven Glen and Ethel's Woods forest preserves east of Antioch.

Like most roadwork, it will be a mess for drivers for a bit. A natural gas main has to be moved, and crews will replace it with a much bigger one while they're at it. Lanes will be closed, first on one side of Route 45 and then the other, as the tunnel is dug out.

Like most infrastructure upgrades, it won't be cheap. The project will cost $4.9 million and is 80% federally funded, the Daily Herald's Mick Zawislak writes.

But by fall, trail fanatics should be able to take an inaugural ride.

A 145-foot-long, poured-in-place, concrete tunnel will run beneath the highway. The length will allow for the two-lane Route 45 to someday become five lanes, so our road system also gets its due.

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It's not just in Lake County that trails are a priority. DuPage County has hundreds of miles of trails, including the Great Western Trail on a former railroad right of way. Cook County is collecting public input for developing a bike plan. A little more than a year ago, Schaumburg dedicated a $4.6 million bike bridge connecting Paul Douglas Forest Preserve to areas south of I-90.

Lake County has been steadfast in removing literal roadblocks that either spill trail users into busy traffic or force them to turn back. Getting the land for a final, 1,600-foot link in the 31-mile Des Plaines River Trail took decades of trying, with the trail connection finally made in 2015 in Lincolnshire.

We congratulated Lake County Forest Preserve leaders back then for their patient negotiations that completed a route from the north end of the county to the south.

We congratulate them again for working out another step that happens to coincide with our collective hunger to get past COVID-19 by getting out on the trails.

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