Scramble up the embankment onto the elevated train tracks along West Bloomingdale and you'll find yourself in a very weedy limbo. Formerly a Canadian Pacific rail line serving factories along a three-mile route from Ridgeway to the river, the tracks have been mostly unused by all save the occasional critter or urban explorer since the mid-90s (though railcars are still stored on a stretch west of Central Park). The idea of turning the tracks into a 15-foot-high linear park had been kicking around for a while when in 2003 a group of planners and activists convened as the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail to try and bring the dream closer to reality.
The proposed greenway would serve as both a slice of desperately needed parkland and a commuter corridor free of the hassle of stop signs and motorized traffic--potential designs include a bike path, murals by school kids, and lots of native prairie flora. Progress has been slow, and as yet there's still no firm timetable, but last year the Trust for Public Land acquired vacant lots adjacent to the viaduct at Albany and Whipple to serve as future access points for the trail (one lot has already been conveyed to the city). Last month the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning recommended the project--which has an estimated budget of $41.8 million--for a total of $2.64 million in federal funding over the next two years.
For more info see bloomingdaletrail.org. "Envisioning the Bloomingdale," a collection of conceptual designs for the project curated by the Chicago Architecture Club, is on exhibit at Acme Art Works (see Art) through the end of August.