A state grant announced on Monday will pave the way for a critical connection for two Forest Preserve District of Will County trails that are currently separated by Interstate 55 and the DuPage River.
The project will provide relief for pedestrians and bicyclists who are looking for a safer way to cross the interstate and the river while traveling on Black Road from Joliet to Shorewood.
The forest preserve district will receive $963,200 from the state’s Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), which will pay for 80 percent of the $1.2 million project. The 20 percent local match will come from the District’s reserve funds.
The grant will pay for Phase 1 and Phase 2 engineering for Segment 1 and Segment 2 of the work, which will provide an east-west link for the DuPage River Trail in Shorewood and the Rock Run Greenway Trail in Joliet. Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists have to travel on sidewalks or a thin concrete shoulder along Black Road to get over the interstate and river.
Donald Gould, president of the Forest Preserve District’s Board of Commissioners, said he was “thrilled” to learn of the grant.
“This will aid the Forest Preserve District in not only providing critical, safe pedestrian and bicycle crossings over I-55 and the DuPage River along a very busy Black Road, but also in connecting two regional trail systems – the DuPage River Trail and the Rock Run Greenway Trail. It is a wonderful improvement for our residents.”
The Black Road trail connection also will provide access to more than 50 miles of regional trails including the I&M Canal Trail and the Old Plank Road Trail.
Marcy DeMauro, the District’s executive director, said the Forest Preserve could not complete the proposed pedestrian and bicycle crossing without the grant.
“In connecting existing trails along the DuPage River and Rock Run Greenway, the District will provide not only recreational opportunities, but also an alternate transportation route for individuals who prefer to walk or use their bikes rather than their cars to travel to businesses, schools, libraries and other services,” she said.
In addition to paying for engineering work for the entire project, the grant also will fund construction of Segment 1, which includes a 300-foot bike and pedestrian bridge over I-55 and new asphalt trail segments on the north and south sides of Black Road, from the Northeast Frontage Road east to the Rock Run Greenway Trail.
The district plans to apply for another $1.1 million ITEP grant this year that would pay for construction of Segment 2, which includes a 260-foot bridge over the DuPage River and a new trail connection on the south side of Black Road that would travel west to the DuPage River Trail. If the second grant is approved, the two segments would be built simultaneously, and construction would begin in about 30 to 36 months.
The funding, which was announced Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn, is part of $52.7 million in ITEP grants awarded by the state for 71 projects including: bike paths, walking trails, historic preservation and streetscape beautification.
ITEP is a federally-funded, competitive program for projects that promote alternative transportation options, including bike and pedestrian travel. Local matching funds are required and project construction must begin within three years.
“These projects will support hundreds of jobs while preserving our heritage, beautifying communities and creating opportunities for pedestrians, bicyclists and others across Illinois,” Quinn said.