The Bloomingdale Trail is (suddenly) fully funded | Bleader

The Bloomingdale Trail is (suddenly) fully funded

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Rahm Emanuel announced yesterday that the remaining $9 million needed to fund the Bloomingdale Trail, which will convert 2.7 miles of abandoned railway line to a trail and "linear park," has been secured. The trail connecting Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown, and Wicker Park should be completed in 2014. It's good news for the rails-to-trails project, which the city has been planning since 2002 and hasn't progressed particularly quickly. But John Greenfield, who blogs for Grid Chicago and has written about the Bloomingdale Trail for the Reader in the past (we first covered it in 2004), thought the sudden announcement seemed strange. In a community meeting last Thursday, representatives said that efforts to raise the remaining $9 million had just begun. In a Grid Chicago post today, Greenfield wonders how things came together so quickly.

Greenfield has a point: $9 million is a lot to raise in just four days, even for Emanuel—who's known to keep company with some high rollers. Most of the project's budget is being covered by $37 million in federal funds; of the remaining money that's needed, $7 million is being donated by Exelon, Boeing, and CNA, and $2 million is coming from the Chicago Park District. Which is another issue Greenfield raises: attendees of the meeting last Thursday were told that the funding would come from the private sector. The Tribune's Blair Kamin also thought the contradiction was odd. He wrote, "The Chicago Park District is to provide another $2 million, the reports say, meaning that local taxpayer funds are also supporting the project. That contradicts what city officials and Beth White, director of the Chicago area office of the Trust for Public Land, stated at at a public meeting last week."

The issue isn't the $2 million that the Park District will be spending, Greenfield writes—he thinks it's a good use of taxpayer money. It's the sudden lack of transparency about what's going on (transparency, of course, is what our mayor is best known for). So he asked Emanuel and Beth White, director of the Trust For Public Land, the organization in charge of fund-raising for the Bloomingdale Trail, what gives.

Emanuel said that he'd secured the funding before last week; White added that while the fund-raising campaign had just been publicly announced, it's common to get some of the funding privately first. Last weekend, they got word that they could publicly announce the donors, leading to Monday's press conference. As far as funding from the private sector went, White said, the Trust for Public Land was committed to raising money from private organizations but she never said that city had committed to not spending any money. Greenfield writes that he's satisfied with the explanation, and it seems reasonable enough. Now let's just hope the trail actually gets built in the next two years. If that seems like a long time to wait, here's how to take a look at it now.

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