The Village thanks everyone who attended the May 29 Open House for the Skokie Valley Trail Phase I Engineering! Feedback collected at the meeting and via email to email@example.com will be part of the conversation at the July Committee of the Whole meeting, where the Village Board will discuss the proposed path alignment. All are welcome to attend the July 16 meeting at 5:30 PM at Village Hall (361 Happ Road). Feedback must be submitted by July 8 to be included in the meeting packet.
Constructing the Skokie Valley Trail (SVT) has been a long-term goal of the Village of Northfield since its inclusion in the 1999 Comprehensive Plan. The SVT is an uninterrupted linear multi-modal connection between Lake Bluff and the City of Chicago. The multi-use path would run along the discontinued Union Pacific Railroad corridor, ComEd right-of-way (ROW), municipal ROW, and existing Cook County Forest Preserve paths through a number of communities on Chicago’s north shore, including the Village of Northfield. It is proposed to be a ten-foot wide asphalt path with a two-foot grass “clear zone” on each side.
Over the past 20 years, Northfield and other communities have unsuccessfully attempted to move the project forward using grant funding. Some communities left the group to work independently and constructed or will soon begin construction on their segments.
The only section left to be addressed is the 4.15 mile stretch from Northfield’s northern border to Old Orchard Road. This segment runs through the Villages of Northfield, Wilmette, Glenview, and Skokie, which joined together in 2018 to secure an $188,000 Invest in Cook grant for the first phase of engineering. The Village of Glenview is the lead agency on this phase of the project.
The SVT is intended to increase community walkability and provide convenient access to a number of community focal points, including New Trier High School, the Cook County Forest Preserve, and the North Shore Senior Center. Our team of communities has submitted two grant applications to assist with funding the next phase of engineering, and construction is currently unbudgeted.
To learn more about the project, visit the Village of Glenview (the lead agency) project page here. If you have questions regarding the project, please feel free to call Assistant to the Village Manager Melissa DeFeo at (847) 784-3554. To ensure comments are documented for the public record, please submit them via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 361 Happ Road, Northfield IL 60093. Feedback must be submitted by July 8 to be included in the meeting packet.
The Village has received questions regarding the planned Skokie Valley Trail (SVT). To ensure all residents stay informed, we thought it would be helpful to provide you with answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Q: What is the SVT?
A: The SVT is a linear multi-modal connection that stretches from Rockland Road in Lake Bluff to West Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago, where it links to the North Branch Trail.
Completing Northfield’s segment of the trail has been a goal in the Village’s Comprehensive Plan since 1999, with little progress. In 2008, the Village partnered with the Villages of Glencoe, Glenview, Northbrook, and Wilmette to complete a Feasibility Study. This study showed that complete construction of the SVT would fill a critical transportation need as a dedicated off-street route for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the North Shore. The SVT was classified as a Tier One corridor by the Northwest Municipal Conference in their 2010 Bicycle Plan, indicating that its construction would provide the highest positive regional impact. In 2012, the SVT was voted a “regionally significant project” by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Q: What are the three phases of the proposed SVT project?
A: A project of this sort encompasses three phases. In the first phase, engineers conduct an in-depth investigation of the project’s logistical, environmental, safety, and economic elements. In the second phase, detailed construction documents are developed. Finally, in the third phase, the project is constructed.
Working in partnership with the villages of Wilmette, Glenview, and Skokie, the Village of Northfield is currently conducting the Phase I study of the 4.15 mile segment of the SVT spanning from Northfield’s northern border to Old Orchard Road. The public input process of Phase I is ongoing. Engineers estimate that Phase I will be completed by late this summer.
The Villages of Northfield, Wilmette, Glenview, and Skokie have submitted grant applications for the Phase II Engineering for this project. If funding is received, Phase II will take about a year and a half to complete. Once the Phase II Engineering is complete, the final phase will be construction of the SVT, which will take about one year. The estimated cost for constructing Northfield’s 2.36 mile segment of the SVT is approximately $2.2 million. The Village does not currently have these funds budgeted, and without grant money, Northfield’s portion of the SVT will not be built.
Q: Why is the Village considering construction of the SVT bike path?
A: Once constructed, the SVT will increase walkability in the Village and provide convenient access to a number of community focal points, including New Trier High School, the Cook County Forest Preserve, and the North Shore Senior Center. Northfield is one of the few Villages that has not constructed its part of the SVT.
Q: I thought the segment of the SVT stretching from Willow Road to Northfield’s northern border was going to be built along the abandoned rail tracks?
A: That is currently the plan. The existing Village footpath is located on an abandoned railroad line that was dedicated to the Village by the Canadian Pacific Railroad. It is therefore a Village-owned right of way (ROW). Most Northfield residents are unaware of the existence of this ROW, which is not easy to access. Paving the path would improve access for all, including residents with disabilities.
Q: Is the Village concerned about the environmental impact of constructing the SVT on the footpath?
A: It is. One of the reasons the path is proposed on the Village-owned ROW is to minimize environmental impact. A major component of the Phase I study is the Environmental Survey; this survey is currently underway and will determine whether the proposed project will impact protected or endangered plants or animals, wetland habitats, historical sites, and/or cultural resources. Based on the environmental resources identified so far, locating the path within the ROW will help avoid impacting protected wetlands. When complete, the Environmental Survey will be reviewed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and other appropriate agencies. The Environmental Survey takes approximately one year to complete and is scheduled to conclude in the late summer.
Regarding the impact to trees, for the 6,000 feet from the north end of Middlefork Woods Condos to Astor Place in Northfield, the engineers anticipate impacting approximately 53 trees. This number is an estimate, which may need to be tweaked when the project moves into the final design stage. It is important to note that IDOT (assuming we use grant monies for construction) would require our project to replace trees removed at a 1:1 ratio. It would obviously be ideal to replace trees in the same general location of where they are removed, but we will have to (during detailed design) field evaluate the most feasible locations to install new trees along the route. The cost for tree removal and replanting are included in the estimated construction cost of $1,669,406.
Q: North of Willow Road, can’t the proposed SVT be routed along the Union Pacific Railroad or ComEd ROWs?
A: Engineers explored placement of the SVT at these locations, but recommended use of the Village-owned ROW because it would minimize the environmental impact. Updated estimates project that it will cost the Village about $475,000 more to build the trail along the alternate ROW. This number has been updated upon reviewing agreements between other municipalities and Union Pacific, in which the railroad has charged approximately $12/SF for their property rather than the engineer’s original estimate of $4/SF. In addition, moving to the alternative ROW would require an additional $75,000 to modify the Phase I study.
Q: I’m concerned about safety- are people using the path going to trespass onto my property?
A: The Police Department has reviewed this issue and based on historical data, they do not anticipate safety problems. In Northfield and across the North Shore, there are many trails and paths adjacent to residential properties. There is no evidence that these areas have experienced increases in crime. From an emergency services standpoint, paved paths actually help our police, fire, and EMS responders get to remote areas much faster.
Q: Why is the Village seeking to advance this project now?
A: Completion of the SVT has been a long-term goal of the Village. Unfortunately, the Village has not had the financial resources to move this project forward and has been trying for years to obtain grants for this purpose. In 2017, the Villages of Northfield, Wilmette, Glenview, and Skokie finally succeeded in obtaining a grant from Cook County to assist with funding the Phase I Engineering of the only remaining section of the SVT that has not undergone a Phase I study.
Q: Where can I voice my opinion of the proposed project?
A: As with any Village project, public engagement is critical. To ensure that your comments are documented for the public record, please submit them via email to email@example.com, or by mail to 361 Happ Road, Northfield IL 60093. Feedback must be submitted by July 8 to be included in the meeting packet.