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Funding arrangements, planning continue for Marquette Greenway Trail

U.S. Department of Transportation website

The Marquette Greenway Trail continues to see gradual progress. When complete, it will provide a continuous bike trail from Chicago to Michigan. Mitch Barloga with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) says many of the 44 planning segments have been completed or funded.

"The thing about the Greenway, which is amazing, because it is so long, I mean, there's always parts of it that are being funded and opened every year," Barloga told Lakeshore Public Media.

In December, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources awarded $5 million dollars to the town of Burns Harbor and almost $2.1 million to the town of Porter, as part of the fourth round of the Next Level Trails program.

The National Park Service has also approved a new route for the current Calumet Trail, which could be finished as soon as this year. Barloga said it will move parts of the route out from under NIPSCO lines, solving longstanding drainage issues in the process.

"Well, we're going to come off of the [NIPSCO] corridor and kind of wind ourselves through the foliaged area of the [Indiana Dunes] National Park, reaching places in the National Park that, in the past, really haven't been populated, haven't been visited," Barloga explained.

Last month, NIRPC hired Butler, Fairman and Seufert to serve as project manager — overseeing design work in Portage and Gary, construction in Michigan City, and design and construction in New Buffalo Township, Michigan. Barloga said the portion of the Marquette Greenway in western Gary is particularly challenging, since there's no straightforward route around industry and active railroads, and natural areas are also environmentally sensitive.

"So in many ways, we really can't invade them, but at the same time, we want people to enjoy these pockets of beauty that are throughout the Region, that are even tucked into some of the most industrialized areas of our county," Barloga added.

But he said the project may benefit from Portage's efforts to extend Burns Parkway near the South Shore station.

Still, Barloga hopes to launch a private fund effort for the remaining portions, which, he said, has been successful in other places, like Cincinnati. "They wanted $5 million. They raised $10 million because, again, these projects just sell themselves," Barloga said.

He hopes the full, 60-mile bike trail will be complete by 2030, if not sooner.