Following the release of the City of Chicago Streets for Cycling 2020 plan, the Active Transportation Alliance has advocated for the completion of a continuous trail along the Chicago River. This recommendation was repeated and the details expanded in the Our Great Rivers plan, completed in 2016 with partners that include the City of Chicago, Metropolitan Planning Council, Friends of the Chicago River, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. These plans have inspired significant investment and improvements along the Chicago River, including the completion of the Chicago Riverwalk, ongoing construction of the Riverview Bridge and 312 River Run, and several developer-led projects that improve Chicago’s access to – and relationship with – the Chicago River.

However, there are locations along the Chicago River where conventional trail construction is challenging, due in part to lack of access, incompatibility with existing land use, soil or water quality, or other factors. As such, stakeholders are seeking innovative solutions that would provide for alternative trail construction methods that draw upon national best practices. These methods include trail on grade, trail on structure, and floating dock or pontoon float methods. Building upon a creative combination of these methods, Epstein proposes the following scope of work to determine the feasibility of trail construction along the South Branch of the Chicago River from the Halsted Street Bridge in a northeasterly direction to Ping Tom Park.

Determining the feasibility of constructing a trail along the South Branch of the Chicago River. This would help to close a key gap in the trail network, provide a high quality bicycling facility, and spur innovation in trail design under constrained or challenging conditions.

To determine the feasibility of construction of a trail between Halsted Street and Ping Tom Park, Epstein will assess the factors that will need to be addressed for trail surface construction, ramps and transitions to existing bicycle facilities, and riverfront construction needs. This approach consists of four primary design elements to be analyzed:

- Western Project Limits: Trail connection to Halsted Street

- Riverfront trail design segments (grade, structure, floating)

- Underbridge connections and width constraints

- Eastern Project Limits: Trail connection to Ping Tom Park

- Additional connections between project limits (e.g. Canal Street, Cermak Road)

Epstein will assess the feasibility of each design element and prepare recommendations for the preferred approach of trail design. This includes ramp connections, trail sections, the identification or development of anchor and tethering methods to secure floating trail segments into the soil, embankment wall, or structure.

Using available data and aerial imagery, Epstein will prepare concept plan drawings for the trail, its connection ramps at each project limit, and underbridge connections. Concept plans will include a general profile and typical section for each trail segment and proposed alignment.

Epstein will prepare up to four (4) conceptual design visualizations using Epstein’s in-house software to show the proposed trail at key locations to communicate the recommended design approach, context with adjacent land use, the river, and proposed ramp connections or transitions at the project limits.