Building a 5-mile segment of a DuPage trail could cost as much as $32 million

Updated 11/19/2019 5:13 PM

Constructing a 5-mile segment of a proposed regional trail through central DuPage County could cost between $22 million and $32 million, forest preserve officials said Tuesday.

But supporters say the hefty price tag shouldn't discourage efforts to finish the long-anticipated East Branch DuPage River Trail, a planned 31-mile path that eventually could connect Bloomingdale to Woodridge.


County officials say the goal of a feasibility study of roughly 5 miles of the proposed regional trail is to identify a preferred alignment for the segment, which would sit between the Great Western Trail and Butterfield Road.

A steering committee overseeing the review includes representatives from Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Butterfield Park District and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

Jessica Ortega, the forest preserve's landscape architect supervisor, said the county and trail advocates want an off-street pathway.

"There are many challenges to determining this alignment," said Ortega, not the least of which is that the forest preserve isn't the only property owner along the proposed route. Other agencies that would provide land include the county, Illinois Department of Transportation, the tollway, Glen Ellyn, Lombard and ComEd.

Meanwhile, bridges and underpasses would need to be constructed to get the trail across major roads, state highways and train tracks. Boardwalks and bridges would be needed to span wetlands and waterways.

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As a result, engineers estimate construction could cost up to $32 million.

"This does not include engineering costs, permitting costs, and long-term maintenance costs, which will put the total cost of the project much higher," said Dan Zinnen, the forest preserve's director of resource management and development.

ComEd and the tollway aren't expected to contribute money for the project. But Ortega said the plan is to develop the trail concept enough so DuPage could seek grants before pursuing construction.

"There's a myriad of federal grant opportunities," she said.

Forest preserve President Daniel Hebreard said officials believe federal money could pay for half to three-quarters of the project's cost.

"That's a huge difference," he said.

Meanwhile, trail advocates such as Ginger Wheeler say there's public support for the project. The Glen Ellyn resident said more than 3,000 people have signed a petition.


While parts of the East Branch DuPage River Trail are done, Wheeler said residents want the entire project completed.

"This bike trail is going to really transform the central part of DuPage County," she said. "We believe that a bike trail is a way to bring the community out, get them involved, get them active."

Wheeler said federal transportation dollars should pay for most of the project.

"That's money that -- as a county -- we have already paid to Washington, D.C.," she said. "So now it's time to get it back and use it here for the good of the people who have sent it there in the first place."

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