A new 3.5-mile section of Veterans Memorial Trail will become a reality thanks to a $5.3 million federal grant.
The paved trail section will be built in Homer Township from 159th Street, just east of Interstate 355, south to Hadley Valley preserve. Construction could begin sometime in 2020.
The northern section of the new trail segment will connect to a path the Illinois Department of Transportation is building along the north side of 159th Street from I-355 east to Route 45. The southern section of the new Veterans Memorial Trail segment will connect to the Forest Preserve's Spring Creek Greenway Trail. The project includes two tunnels that will carry the trail under 167th Street and Gougar Road.
The Transportation Alternatives Program grant was allocated recently by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning as part of $475 million in federal funds awarded to 70 transportation improvement projects throughout the region.
The grant will pay for 80 percent of the Veterans Memorial Trail extension. The City of Lockport is contributing $575,000 for the project, which will help the Forest Preserve pay its 20 percent grant match.
“The city recently completed its Bike Path Master Plan Survey and the Veterans Memorial Trail is a huge part of that plan,” said City Administrator Ben Benson. “We’re really looking forward to this new trail extension.”
The trail segment is a critical link in a collaborative effort by the Forest Preserve and its partners to build out Will County's regional trail system, said Ralph Schultz, the District's chief operating officer.
"Connections like these offer true nonmotorized alternatives that clean our air and offer healthy options for travel between our homes, businesses and natural areas," he added. "We look forward to working with others to continue to expand the Veterans Memorial Trail in the future and provide additional opportunities and connections within our communities."
More to come
Ultimately, after all of the trail segments are completed, Veterans Memorial Trail will stretch around 15 miles from Internationale Parkway in Woodridge south to New Lenox. Trail planning grew out of construction of the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), which provides a 15-20 foot wide corridor for a multiuse trail.
"With more than 20 years in planning and engineering, we look forward to helping make the tollway a truly multimodal transportation corridor," Schultz said.
After the segment from 159th Street to Hadley Valley is completed, four more sections of the trail are planned to be constructed in the future from:
- 159th Street north to 135th Street and east to the Forest Preserve's Schneider’s Passage trailhead, where the segment will link with an existing 4.73-mile portion of Veterans Memorial Trail. The existing portion overlaps Centennial Trail for 3.26 miles and then splits off at Interstate 355 and heads north 1.47 miles to Woodridge Municipal Trail.
- 135th Street north to 127th Street and the Lemont Park District’s Centennial Park in Cook County.
- The northern bank of Spring Creek south across the creek to the edge of Hadley Valley preserve.
- Hadley Valley preserve boundary south to Route 6 across the street from Silver Cross Hospital. (This section will be installed as part of a local commercial development in the Village of New Lenox.)
RELATED: 'ASTONISHING' WORK AT HADLEY VALLEY EARNS EXCELLENCE IN ECOLOGICAL RESTORATION ACCREDITATION
Veterans Memorial Trail connects existing trail systems in Will, Cook and DuPage counties and it provides a vital link across the Des Plaines River Valley, which had been an impediment to regional trail connections in the past.
The trail connects to the Centennial Trail system, which travels east into Cook County and links to the John Husar I&M Canal Trail and the Cal-Sag Trail. Veterans Memorial Trail also connects to the Southern DuPage Regional Trail, which serves the communities of Aurora, Naperville, Woodridge, Darien, Bolingbrook, Downers Grove, Westmont, Clarendon Hills, Willowbrook and Burr Ridge.
"The Forest Preserve has worked with many partners on this project to provide the kind of long-distance trail connections that bikers, runners and hikers are seeking," Schultz said. "And these are the kinds of recreational options that improve the region’s quality of life and promote fitness and family time.”
Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.