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Bloomingdale Trail, ARUP, Chicago, Ross Barney Architects, Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, chicago high line, landscape architecture, urban park, elevated park, abandoned rail line

The Bloomingdale rail line once served as an important transport corridor, but was then abandoned in the early 1990s. Since the late ’90s, the idea has been floating around to convert the elevated rail line into a public park and the idea is also in line with Daniel Burnham’s vision to create a network of interconnected parks. The Bloomingdale Trail and Park has been in the works for many years now, but significant progress has recently been made, and the concept plans were revealed by the city on March 8th. The multiphase project is expected to cost about $70 million when its all said and done, but the first phase should cost about $46 million. To date the city has collected $37 million in federal anti-congestion and air-quality funding and 7 more was just donated through private funding.

Designed by ARUP, with the help of Ross Barney Architects and Michael van Valkenburgh Associates, the elevated trail and park will be 2.7 miles long and will feature bike and pedestrian paths. The gently curving and undulating trail will allow bikers to go up to 20 mph, and there will be separate paths available for pedestrians. What is not used by paths will be available for public art, lighting, play areas, seating, and vegetation. The landscaping will encourage new wildlife to converge in the city and will contribute to an improved environmental quality (ie. fresh air, stormwater infiltration).

The design team is proposing 8 access points along the path spaced at about 1/2 mile apart. In the beginning, the rail line was built to keep people off of it, but now the line will encourage access via sloping parks. The design team is still working out the details, especially with regards to privacy for neighbors of the park and safety issues, but they hope to begin construction in 2013 with parts of the park open by 2014.

Images ©Arup, Ross Barney Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Kate Joyce Studios with funding support from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail