Skokie starts initial work on Oakton Street bike and pedestrian path
Brian L. CoxPioneer Press
Skokie has started engineering work on a $2.3 million multi-use bike and pedestrian path along a section of Oakton Street even as it continues to seek what officials describe as essential grant funding to pay for the project.
The proposed 10-foot wide, almost mile long asphalt path would run on the south side of Oakton Street from Gross Point Road to Caldwell Avenue, said Erik Cook, the village’s director of engineering.
“There’s nowhere to walk,” Cook said. “You can see people just walk in the dirt in places. There are some places with sidewalks, by [Niles West] high school. But there’s nothing across the train tracks.
“We want to allow different uses so we can have bikes and pedestrians at the same time,” he added. “If we just went with a five-foot sidewalk, it’s more of a pedestrian path only at that width.”
The village has received a $100,000 grant from Cook County for engineering on the project, he said, and the Skokie village board recently voted in favor of seeking almost $2 million in federal grant money to fund construction.
Niles and Morton Grove are also helping fund the project, Cook said.
“It’s an 80-20 [percent] match with the feds paying the 80,” he said. “If we have to come up with the 80 percent, we’re going to have to come up with another funding source. If we don’t get it, we’ll keep going for grants. We’re hopeful with it. We think it’s a nice project. We have a good need for it.”
He said safety is a big factor in the proposal.
“That’s an issue for us in the winter -- the high school kids walking across the bridge,” Cook said. “It’s narrow and hard to remove snow. We want to tie everything together so you can use a bike path.
“Oakton is a busy street to ride a bike on at this point,” he said “There’s no plan to do any kind of bike lane. Even if you did put bike lanes on Oakton, it’s probably not appropriate … two lanes each direction and it’s pretty high-truck traffic. It’s not exactly the best place for a bike.”
Cook said that if the village gets the grant money, construction on the path could start next year.
“That’s if we don’t run into anything difficult,” he said “There’s a lot of ‘buts’ with that. There’s a lot of challenges. We have to get approval from IDOT. We have a couple of waterways we need to modify to get across to. There’s challenges ahead of us.”