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Chicago rail conversion puts local twist on High Line strategy

Cultural/transportation project will welcome bicycles as well as pedestrians, linking up-and-coming neighborhoods on the city's Near North Side.

April 12, 2013 |
Proposed Milwaukee Avenue Bridge. Courtesy Michael Van Valkenburgh

Plans are moving forward to convert an unused, century-old Chicago rail artery to a 2.7 mile, 13-acre recreational facility and transit corridor. Unlike New York's High Line, the Bloomingdale Trail and Park will welcome bicycles as well as pedestrians, linking trendy and transitional neighborhoods on the city's Near North Side (Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square, Humboldt Park) with public transportation to other parts of the city and suburbs.

Six "anchor parks" owned by the city will serve as access points to the trail, providing additional space for arts performances and recreation. Public funding will be used for the $91 million job, including $39 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates led the Phase I planning team, with groundbreaking possible this year and completion as early as the end of 2014.  Collins Engineers is helming the Phase II design, with Frances Whitehead named as lead artist. Participating agencies include the Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Park District, Department of Housing and Economic Development, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Trust for Public Land, and local community groups.

If the project succeeds, long-range plans would extend the trail eastward, ultimately crossing the Chicago River and Kennedy Expressway (I-90).


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