Olympia Fields- Old Plank Road Trail
The Old Plank Road Trail occupies the western half of a plank road right-of-way purchased in 1850 and upgraded into a railroad line known as the Joliet and Northern Indiana Railroad in 1855. This allegedly independent railroad line in Olympia Fields, IL, which ran from Joliet to Lake Station, Indiana, appears to have been associated with the Michigan Central Railroad from its creation. This piece of roadbed became known as the Joliet Cutoff and was operated by the Michigan Central as a branch line from Indiana into downtown Chicago. The Old Plank Road Path is a 21-mile-long public rail trail in the Illinois counties of Cook and Will. It runs west from Chicago Heights to Joliet, servicing fast-growing areas including Frankfort and New Lenox. Railroad use of this roadbed began to wane in the early 1900s. Trains were being partially replaced by rubber-tired vehicles that traveled on newly paved roads such as the Lincoln Highway, which runs parallel to the Old Plank Road Trail for its entire length. This section of the Joliet Cutoff was deactivated in 1972. This abandonment cleared the way for the train bed to be used as a public path. Local citizens began organizing in 1977 to protect the historic right-of-way for trail use. The right-of-way was dubbed the “Old Plank Road Trail” in 1982. In July 1997, the route was formally opened to the public. Several strips of land along the roadbed maintain remains of the Chicago area’s native tallgrass prairie, on property that has never been plowed since it was bought for plank road reasons around 1850. The Forest Preserve District of Will County, as well as numerous townships and municipalities having jurisdiction over the path, now maintain the Old Plank Road Trail. The route is served by a number of cross streets along US Highway 30, as well as the Matteson Station on the Metra Electric north-south commuter train route.
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