The El Paseo Trail concept was first developed as part of the 2006 Pilsen Quality of Life Plan. The original concept was a pedestrian friendly corridor that started at 16th Street and Sangamon Street and ran south to Cermak Road and Sangamon Street. The only portion that was realized was Sangamon between Cullerton and 21st Street, what is now El Paseo Community Garden. Over the past decade, and with the support of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), the concept has evolved into a 4.2-mile-long rails-to-trails project that may include cross-generational gathering spaces, community gardens, artist and cultural installations, walking and biking, natural areas, and innovative stormwater management features.
In early 2016, CDOT proceeded with a feasibility study for the Little Village portion of the proposed El Paseo Trail from Western Avenue to Central Park Avenue. The purpose of the feasibility study was to assess existing conditions and determine the trail’s end points; develop traffic recommendations for safe trail/road crossings; develop draft design concepts for trail gateway areas; and present the findings to community stakeholders to gather input.
In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began the environmental remediation along the first phase of El Paseo Trail on Sangamon Street from 16th Street to 21st Street. These efforts included the removal of contaminated soil within the existing BNSF Railroad property. This clean-up was completed in Spring of 2018.
The EPA is currently searching for funding to finish remediation along the rest of El Paseo’s corridor. The BNSF Railroad is in the process of removing their existing tracks and railroad crossings along Cermak from Canalport to Ashland. The corridor is still under BNSF’s ownership; however DPD has secured City Council’s approval to begin the process of acquiring the property. No funding currently exists to purchase the property or construct El Paseo Trail. The completion of the Phase I Study, currently underway, will allow DPD and CDOT to apply for federal funding.