Why the Paseo trail won’t be the next 606

Lack of existing infrastructure render plan for Pilsen-to-Little Village trail a tough sell

When the Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that Pilsen and Little Village would be getting its own version of the popular 606 trail, I had a hard time envisioning how that could occur.

The collective community being discussed has a very active train presence. Even with the door closed, I can still here the subtle rumble of trains working through the night as I type this.

But 90% of the infrastructure in Pilsen and Little Village needed for a 606-style trail is in active use. Only the abandoned rail bridge over Western Ave. could help the Paseo trail emulate what people love so much about the 606 — movement without interaction with motor vehicles.

606 key to success: existing bridges to keep people and cars away from each other.

Having run the 606 numerous times, it is the absence of intersections that make it a success. You don’t have to worry about anyone being struck by a car when there is no street to run into.

The same can not be said for the Paseo pathway as there are 32 potential points where pedestrians have to navigate past motorized vehicles. Most of the proposed pathway is at street level.

While some of those crossing will likely be eliminated by simply closing through streets (accounting for as many as 10 intersections), the rest remain to be significant concerns that would require a flyover consideration. 18th Street, Ashland, Cermak, Damen, and California are all areas of heavy traffic that would put pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists at significant risk to collide with one another.

The existing infrastructure and landscape surrounding the proposed Paseo Trail at Ashland & Cermak.

I have run a significant portion of the proposed trail and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stroll by Cook County Jail and a variety of warehouses. I’m all for the city redeveloping industrial areas of the city, but it I doubt this trail alone is going to help much.

The 606 also works because it is embedded in the neighborhood of the people who use it. This is a big reason why I believe the proposed ERA Trail in Englewood makes so much more sense.

Additionally, the ERA Trail already has the existing flyover infrastructure required to allow people to use the trail without risk of incident with motor vehicles. Combined with its location within the neighborhood means that more people would likely use the ERA than the Paseo.

Location and existing infrastructure make the ERA an obvious choice.

Even as a resident of Pilsen, it is hard to see the Paseo ever being more than a little-used project that would require big money to be done right. Seems clear that the smart money would be spent 40 blocks further south on the ERA.

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