Route chosen, design next for 'Patriot Path' connecting Libertyville, North Chicago

A preferred route for a proposed 5.5-mile trail along Route 137 to provide access for thousands of residents in several Lake County communities has been selected and will be moving into the design phase.

The Patriot Path would connect the Des Plaines River Trail near Libertyville with the Robert McClory Bike Path at Sheridan Road in North Chicago. The first public open house on the $27 million plan was held three years ago. About 100 residents turned out Wednesday for the third and final session.

"We've broken the route up into four segments. We'll probably tackle one segment at a time," said Chuck Gleason, project manager for the Lake County Division of Transportation. "We'll decide probably within the next month because we want the consultant to prepare a contract for the design."

The trail would connect Libertyville, Green Oaks, Waukegan and North Chicago. Funding to get the project started is included in the 2021 budget, according to Gleason.

"Absolutely, it's a major project. It's going to happen," said Ann Maine, president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

As planned, it would start at the Des Plaines River Trail on the south side of Route 137 and travel to O'Plaine Road, where it would cross to the north side. Libertyville and the Metra station serving Great Lakes Naval Station are major connections on either end. A map of the preferred route will be posted in coming days on the project website.

Regional bike and walking trails most often are associated with the Lake County Forest Preserve District. But the county's division of transportation has about 60 miles of bike lanes and paths in its system and considers nonmotorized travel a priority.

When possible, LCDOT adds bike paths during road reconstruction and widening projects, as well as bike-friendly shoulders for resurfacing projects.

"The whole idea of this path was to set up a trunk line along this corridor" for communities or other entities to tie into, Gleason said. A countywide system is part of LCDOT's 2040 plan to accommodate increasing demand for bicycle routes.

In this case, forest preserve officials for years worked with residents in subdivisions south of Route 137 on the west end of the corridor to link to the Des Plaines River Trail. But impacts to natural areas and other factors thwarted the idea.

"People weren't comfortable with so much of it being signed through their streets. It was difficult," said Maine, who has been working on the idea since its inception.

Forest commissioners also serve as Lake County Board members and Maine took the idea to the division of transportation, where it grew in scope. She was at the public meeting Wednesday.

"Some had concerns, but there were a lot of people really excited," she said.

Routing the trail will involve getting over or around the Des Plaines River, the Tri-State Tollway, railroad tracks, high tension power lines and the busy intersection at Route 41.

Gleason said the $27 million represents the total bill, including engineering, right of way acquisition and construction.

"The challenge along the whole route is limited right of way, so we'll have to buy land from almost everybody," Gleason said.

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