Where is El Paseo located?
The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) have recently initiated preliminary engineering and environmental studies (Phase I) for the proposed El Paseo Trail in the City of Chicago in Cook County.
The proposed El Paseo Trail is a 4.2-mile-long, multi-use path that runs northeast and southwest, located in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods of Chicago. The proposed trail follows the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail line. The project study area has an eastern terminus of 16th Street and Sangamon Street in Pilsen, and a western terminus of 32nd Street and Central Park Avenue in Little Village. The final location is still to be determined through the Phase I study. The community can voice where they would like the trail to be during this process.
The preliminary engineering and environmental study for El Paseo Trail is anticipated to be processed as a Federally Approved Categorical Exclusion (CE) and will be performed in accordance with procedures set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
When will El Paseo be constructed?
The project is currently in Phase I, which includes an 18-month environmental study and preliminary engineering. The results of the Phase I study will allow CDOT and DPD to apply for funding for land acquisition and Phase II engineering. Phase II engineering and land acquisition may take 12 to 18 months. Phase III, or construction phase, is usually 18 to 24 months once begun. The construction may be split into stages depending on funding. At the earliest a portion of the trail may be completed in 2023.
It should be noted that the Sangamon portion of the trail from 16th Street to 21st Street is not included in the Phase I Study. This portion has already been environmentally remediated and the existing railroad tracks have been removed. Preliminary engineering has been completed by DPD. However, DPD is still in negotiations with the BNSF Railroad to acquire the land. CDOT is currently reconstructing Sangamon Street under a separate project and has included the construction of the trail ADA ramps. Additionally, CDOT is currently installing street lighting along the existing trail. The Sangamon portion of the trail will likely be constructed before the rest of the trail.
Is it funded and where is the funding coming from?
Currently only the Phase I Study is funded. These funds came from city Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Phase II and land acquisition funds will most likely come from a combination of federal, state, and local funding. Phase III funding would be similar. However, it is too soon to know the details.
Will this be a bike path?
The exact use of the corridor is dependent upon community input, and environmental and physical constraints. It is likely that a multi-purpose path will be incorporated into the final design. Pedestrian and cyclist accommodations would allow for more funding opportunities.
Is this like The Bloomingdale Trail/ 606?
No. Physically, this trail is at grade rather than elevated like the Bloomingdale Trail. This is not a free flowing route, as the corridor crosses many intersections. However, there is a shared concern of increased property taxes along the corridor and developer speculation. The Bloomingdale Trail included private funding and is maintained in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the Trust for Public Land. Neither of these entities have expressed interest in El Paseo Trail. El Paseo is likely to be a community managed trail with efforts led by local stakeholders and community organizations.
Who will manage and maintain it?
The City intends for this to be the first ever community managed trail in Chicago led by local stakeholders and community organizations. For example, the existing portion along Sangamon between Cullerton and 21st Street is managed by El Paseo Community Garden through their land trust Neighborspace.
What are the goals and objectives of the Phase I Study?
The Phase I Study will identify potential cultural, historic, environmental, and physical impacts of the proposed El Paseo Trail. The Phase I Study will take approximately 18 months to complete. The completion of the Phase I Study will allow DPD and CDOT to apply for federal funding.
Who is involved in the Phase I Study?
The study is being administered by the Chicago Department of Transportation. They have hired a consultant team consisting of Christopher B. Burke Engineering (engineering lead), Blue Daring (public involvement), Altamanu (landscape architecture), and Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants (framework masterplan).
As part of the Phase I Study, a robust public involvement process will be necessary to gather community input. El Paseo Community Garden and partners will assist in the community involvement along the Sangamon portion. The public involvement process will include local residents, property owners, business owners, and representatives from local organizations that will ensure the public’s needs are addressed during the Phase I Study and beyond.
Who is a stakeholder?
A stakeholder is anyone who could be affected by the project and has a stake in its outcome. This includes the residents, property owners, business owners, special interest groups including environmental, historic, cultural and economic resources, and pedestrians and cyclists who will utilize the facility. The identification of stakeholders for the El Paseo Trail has begun through a combination of input from local community leaders and agencies.
Who does the trail serve?
The primary focus of the trail should be the surrounding residents in Pilsen, Marshall Square, and Little Village. The trail will also serve regional users, but should be designed in coordination with the Department of Housing to prevent displacement of long-term residents.
Why is this trail necessary?
The BNSF railroad property where this trail is planned is a contaminated brownfield site. The acquisition of the land will allow the city to conduct environmental remediation and provide a safe green space for the community. Ultimately, the stakeholders will decide what should and can be done with the land.
What is the El Paseo Community Council (EPCC)?
El Paseo Community Council is an ongoing initiative being led by El Paseo Community Garden. The success of their stewardship, governance, community-driven projects, and programming serve as an example of how the proposed trail could function. The EPCC will be formed organically through a series of community meetings and give all those interested a chance to become a member. Committees will be formed to focus on specific areas including: housing and equity, arts and culture, health and safety, stewardship, programming. It is the Council’s goal to provide a framework for all community members to speak to their hopes and concerns, and at the same time build a permanent platform for community inclusion.