December 19, 2022
Epstein prepared a feasibility study and conceptual design for a bicycle and pedestrian connection along Lake Calumet in Chicago. The project scope involved identifying a bicycle and pedestrian corridor to connect the Pullman Neighborhood and the Illinois International Port District to Big Marsh Park. This project was awarded the Honor Award in the Studies, Research and Consulting by ACEC-IL for its innovative solution to increase opportunities for outdoor recreation, and an improved connection and stewardship for natural resources, species and habitat on the south side of Chicago.
Lake Calumet is not only the largest body of water within Chicago, it is a physical barrier between the Pullman National Monument, Big Marsh Park and other destinations to the east. Improved pedestrian and bicycle access across the lake will connect these two destinations, while simultaneously providing new access and recreational opportunities along Lake Calumet.
Active Transportation Alliance and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning identified this as a key connection in creating a regional trail network. Epstein conducted a feasibility study to assess existing conditions, define project objectives, develop design criteria, gather public input, determine potential alignments, and produce cost estimates for the suggested connection, which included a combination of trail, boardwalk and bridge structures, as an initial step to develop the trail connection.
Epstein also prepared a conceptual design for bicycle and pedestrian overpass of the Canadian National (CN) Railroad that runs parallel to Stony Island Avenue within the project study area.
To create these connections, the proposed trail had major barriers to cross including I-94, Lake Calumet, Norfolk Southern Railroad and Stony Island Avenue. The Illinois International Port District (IIPD) requested the trail not impact port operations or the Harborside International Golf Center due to concerns about trail users leaving the trail and trespassing on IIPD property or disturbing the sensitive Harborside Marsh Pond north of Lake Calumet, which consists of high quality wetlands and natural habitat. For this natural area to be a draw for trail users, Epstein created a cost effective alignment that preserved the currently off-limits natural areas, but allow adjacent access to them at the same time.
Epstein explored the use of a floating trail and found the cost would be somewhere between an on-grade trail and a trail on structure. We researched construction materials and types of floating docks paired with a concrete surface, and worked closely with dock manufacturers to develop a solution that could be scaled up to a nearly one-mile length of floating trail. Epstein explored methods of anchoring and tethering, its resistance to impact, changes in lake levels, wave action, safety, accessibility comfort, and transitions to on-grade trails. Robust public engagement included an online public survey promoted by local civic organizations, community groups, Friends of Big Marsh, and Southside Trail Blazers. Our team conducted stakeholder meetings with 14 different groups and elected officials to gather input on desirable amenities, community benefits, concerns, and barriers to accessing the trail. It was then determined this trail would be a destination in itself, and our team felt it was important to offer amenities and points of interest along the trail for stopping and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.