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The Lakefront Will Get Separate Bike & Pedestrian Paths Thanks To $12M Donation

By Stephen Gossett in News on Dec 21, 2016 3:39PM

City of Chicago

The full 18-mile length of the lakefront trail will eventually have distinct paths for cyclists and runners—which, as anyone who has either ran or biked along the current one-size-fits-all model can attest, should be a massive logistical improvement. The project will be completed following a $12 million donation to the Chicago Park District from billionaire Citadel founder and—and financial backer of both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner—Ken Griffin.

Emanuel announced back in March a plan that would separate seven miles of the lakefront path—between Fullerton Avenue and Ohio Street and between 31st St and 51st street. The donation now allows for the full lakefront trail to split.

The plan reportedly calls for a 12-feet-wide asphalt bike trail on the east and a 20-feet pedestrian pathway, made of asphalt in the center and a “soft surface mix” along both sides, on the west.

“This is an important step in making the Lakefront Trail safer, more accessible and more enjoyable for the thousands of Chicagoans and visitors that travel the path each day,” Emanuel said in a press release. “It would not have been possible without Ken’s philanthropy to the City of Chicago, with this gift being the most recent. Trail separation does more than address issues of overcrowding; it builds a better future for one of the city’s greatest assets by ensuring more people are able to experience what the lakefront has to offer.”

As the press release notes, the popular trail system can see up to 100,000 people per day in the summertime, according to a study by the Chicago Area Runners’ Association and the Active Transportation Alliance.

"The new trail will ease congestion and conflicts on the lake front...," Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said in a statement. "I often hear from people who avoid the lakefront because it's too crowded, and this will dramatically address that problem and enable more people to comfortably bike and hike along Chicago's beautiful lakefront."

Griffin, the richest man in the sate, made $1.7 billion last year has donated to Rauner and—during the mayoral runoff with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia—Emanuel. Protesters in the past have targeted Griffin's penthouse, in Park Tower, and the downtown Citadel offices demanding that the wealthiest earners contribute more in taxes.

The new separated lakefront paths are expected to be completed in 2018.

This post has been updated.