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Northwest Indiana trail projects moving forward, despite challenges

Pennsy Greenway Rohrman
Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Radio
The Pennsy Greenway officially ends at Rohrman Park in Schererville, but work on an extension was underway in the view from Oct. 2022.

Efforts to build a continuous bike trail from Chicago to Michigan are facing some challenges. The Marquette Greenway Trail got a major infusion of funding last year through the federal RAISE program and the state READI program.

But that turned out not to be enough, according to Mitch Barloga, active transportation manager for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC).

"Most of that was cut out from the [Indiana Dunes] National Park, which we found out we can't use, but they told us we could. So it's like, wait, they bait and switched us," Barloga told NIRPC's Ped, Pedal & Paddle Committee in January.

Further complicating matters, Barloga said the Indiana Department of Transportation typically serves as the funding recipient for federally-funded projects but has decided not to get involved in this one. That means NIRPC has to hire an engineering firm to serve as project manager. Then, they can issue a request for proposals for trail design.

Barloga says the Marquette Greenway Trail is actually about 50 separate projects that have been underway since 2009, with a number of different funding avenues. He said they hope to have the entire trail open in 2026 or 2027.

It's one of a few trail projects discussed during January's Ped, Pedal & Paddle Committee meeting.

The extension of the Pennsy Greenway in Schererville from Rohrman Park to Clark Road is about 85 percent complete. Schererville Parks Superintendent John Novacich said there's a large ditch that required more redesign to make sure the slopes are stable, and they ran out of time to complete it last year. They hope to open the trail section in the spring.

Meanwhile, planning continues on an extension of the Old Plank Road Trail from Chicago Heights to Schererville. Barloga said most of the former railroad right of way is intact — even going under U.S. 30 and Illinois 394 — but it's interrupted by an active steel mill and warehouses in Chicago Heights.

"So we have to have a on-road route to consider, a possible cycle track or side path in that vicinity, to get it back to where the trail commences yet again," Barloga explained.

Consultants are expected have a preferred alternative ready for public review within the next couple of months.