Chicago to build longest elevated park in world

March 13, 2012 9:42:54 AM PDT
A former rail line that hasn't been used in years will become Chicago's first elevated park -- thanks to $46 million in public and private funding, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The abandoned raised rail line on the city's Northwest Side will include parks and a bike trail along four Chicago neighborhoods --Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. The 2.65 mile stretch of land will cost $46 million, Mayor Emanuel said. Donations from Exelon, Boeing and CNA, at $5 million, $1 million and $1 million, respectively, were announced Monday. The rest of the money will come from private support, federal funds and the Chicago Park District.

The trail will be the longest elevated park system in the world, according to the city, and provide a safe greenway for pedestrians and bicyclists. The plan includes several access points, and connects to public transit -- CTA buses, trains and Metra lines -- as well as existing bike paths into the Loop.

As proposed, the trail would offer easy access to the CTA's Blue Line Damen and Western stops; the Clybourn Metra Station; and buses that run along North, Fullerton, Kedzie, Kimball, California, Milwaukee and Ashland avenues.

The access points within a neighborhood will include some parks. Artist renderings of Kimball Avenue and Churchill Field parks were released.

Construction will be completed in fall 2014.

The idea of turning the Bloomingdale Trail into a park is something the group Friends of Bloomingdale Trail ( has been pushing since its inception in 2003.

According to the group's website, the 3-mile stretch of land that runs through Chicago's Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park neighborhood was originally a street-level rail line for the Chicago and Pacific Railroad that followed Bloomingdale Avenue. In 1893, the railroad elevated the tracks to run above the other traffic. The tracks were in use until 1980s, when the number of trains using the line dwindled to just one a week and eventually stopped completely.