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Emanuel Pushes To Build Bloomingdale Trail, Upgrade Parks Citywide

UPDATED 03/13/12 5:51 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Richard M. Daley had his Millennium Park, now Mayor Rahm Emanuel has his own plan to beautify the city with public space by investing $290 million in hundreds of parks over the next five years, including the long-delayed Bloomingdale Trail on the Northwest Side.

As CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports, a 2.7 mile stretch of abandoned elevated rail lines would be transformed into the Bloomingdale Trail, a park and multi-use trail connecting the Humboldt Park and Bucktown neighborhoods.

Once it is completed, the Bloomingdale Trail park will run for more than 2.7 miles along the old concrete structure for the Bloomingdale Line railroad, parallel to Bloomingdale Avenue, from Ashland Avenue west to Ridgeway Avenue near the Milwaukee District West tracks.

No freight trains have run on the Bloomingdale Line since 2001, although as long ago as the early 1990s, trail organizers said the line only ran one train a week. Plans to turn the land into a park began shortly after the last train ran.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports


As it is now, the viaducts in a lot of places are a crumbling eyesore, but many Chicago residents already use the abandoned rail lines to walk their dogs or go for a run. The people who sneak up there say it offers a beautiful view of the skyline.

According the mayor, soon the whole city will have that chance to see it. The Bloomingdale Trail project would transform the elevated railroad tracks into elevated green space, with a biking and jogging path winding through it.

Emanuel said it's part of a citywide park project so big that, when completed, every person in the city will be within a ten minute walk of an improvement.

In all, Emanuel's office has targeted more than 800 projects at city parks, recreational areas and other green spaces in Chicago for upgrades. In the next two years, the city plans to upgrade parks with soccer fields, basketball courts, new playgrounds, new fieldhouses, and new boat houses on the Chicago River.

In all, the city plans to invest $290 million in park upgrades over the next five years.

Emanuel said, with no major project underway downtown, now was the time to launch a citywide park project.

"I wanted to – with (Chicago Park District Superintendent) Mike Kelly, and with the board – seize this opportunity to invest in our neighborhoods," Emanuel said. "I call it – and I talked to the board about this – it's a quiet revolution in our neighborhood parks."

The Bloomingdale Trail is the most ambitious part of the plan, transforming the old railroad tracks into elevated green space, with bike trails and parks.

The project was still in the design stage as of Monday. The first phase would cost about $46 million, funded by a combination of federal financing, Park District funds, and private donations.

The Land for Public Trust is seeking further private and corporate donations for another $35 million for the project, according to the mayor's office. The project expected to cost a total of $100 million when it is completed.

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