City receives $580,000 state grant to fix west Evanston trail

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

The Illinois Department of Transportation granted Evanston $580,000 last week to restore a west Evanston trail.

Evanston’s grant is part of a total $50 million given to local transportation projects in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announced last week that 54 projects statewide will be supported by the latest round of funding through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, an IDOT initiative.

In Evanston, the grant will go toward the rehabilitation of the trail at Ladd Arboretum, a 17-acre park along the North Shore Channel near west Evanston. The multi-use path is currently in a state of disrepair, according to a news release.

“Presently the trails are in a deteriorated state and due to poor drainage conditions are often unusable in inclement weather,” said Doug Gaynor, the city’s parks, recreation and community services director in the news release.

Bikers and pedestrians, many of whom are schoolchildren, use the trails frequently.

“Incorporating bike paths, bike lanes and sidewalks into the transportation system encourages physical activity and healthy lifestyles by providing a safe place to walk, jog and bike close to home,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a release.

The grants are also expected to create jobs throughout the state.

“These projects will create hundreds of jobs while preserving our heritage, beautifying communities and creating new transportation options across our state for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others,” Quinn said in the release.

Evanston’s division of parks/forestry and facilities management worked to complete the city’s application for the grant. Paul D’Agostino, the division’s superintendent, said plans to repair the trail might include crushed granite with a binder material to hold it together. The trail was installed in the 1960s and has only received spot maintenance since its installation.

The ITEP grant contributes 80 percent of the cost of the project, with the city contributing the remaining 20 percent, or $145,000. In total, the trail rehabilitation will cost $725,000.

IDOT spokeswoman Paris Ervin said the grants aim to increase alternative methods of transportation and decrease a reliance on motor vehicles.

In 2010, ITEP granted $90 million to state transportation projects. This year, IDOT received 328 applications asking for nearly $450 million in grants, Ervin said. IDOT selected 54 of these applications to receive funding. Evanston applied for the grant last summer, D’Agostino said.

Evanston bicycle activist Susan Munro said the availability of better maintained trails would provide a safe and enjoyable location for cyclists in the city.

“The challenge in Evanston is always trying to find streets that are safe to bike on,” she said.

The grant also contributes to Evanston’s bicycle improvement plan and the Ladd Arboretum master plan, both of whic were created to facilitate biking in Evanston and to enhance the park.

Although an exact timeline for the trail reconstruction has not been established, Ervin said IDOT expects work to begin within 12 months of the creation of final plans, which are currently being developed.