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Can a Sunday bike ride get new trail started?
By Jack Komperda | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/11/2007 12:08 AM

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The Veterans Memorial Tollway will see a different sort of traffic before opening to cars and trucks.

Roughly 5,000 bicyclists will travel I-355's south extension today as part of a 20-mile ride.

The bike ride is set to begin at 9 a.m. at the 127th Street interchange in Lemont. It will take riders along much of the span of the extension.

Proceeds from the registration fee will go to area bicycle clubs and to a fund to help create a bike system adjacent to the extension.

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority donated a 20-foot-wide corridor along much of the extension to local municipalities, including sections of low-lying temporary bridges used to transport equipment during the tollway construction.

"Simply acquiring the land for a path is usually the thing that draws trail projects out the longest," said Steve Buchtel, a South suburban coordinator for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, which is organizing Sunday's ride.

Creating the path ultimately will be the responsibility of the communities along the tollway, including Bolingbrook Homer Glen, Lockport, Lemont and New Lenox, tollway spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis said.

It could cost up to $10 million, McGinnis said.

A committee of several local and county agencies is meeting to determine how best to handle the pursuit of federal and state grants to pay for the project.

"It all comes down to the political will and commitment of these communities," Buchtel said. "Now if some private donor wanted to sponsor this construction in a major way, it would cut the planning time in half."