It could be possible to ride on a continuous bike trail from Chicago to New Buffalo within the next five years. After years of planning, the Marquette Greenway Trail recently got more than $20 million from the federal RAISE program and the state READI program.
Mitch Barloga is the active transportation manager for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). He says that will help pay for 17 projects covering the 26 miles that were left to be funded.
"This is going to be a massive regional shot in the arm when it's completed and benefit us all for many, many generations to come," Barloga told NIRPC's Ped, Pedal & Paddle Committee last week.
Much of the trail work would be the responsibility of the National Park Service. About six miles of the Calumet Trail -- one of the region's oldest -- would be replaced with a new route through the Indiana Dunes National Park. Barloga says that would add variety to a monotonous stretch of trail, while avoiding the existing path's drainage issues.
"It's going to be a much more pleasant experience for trail users as they go through here, utilizing some old trails, some old roads," he said.
In Burns Harbor, the Marquette Greenway would serve as the backbone of the planned Westport development.
Even with the grants and the local funding commitments, officials are still more than $5 million short of the almost $41 million. But Barloga thinks that could easily be filled with Indiana's Next Level Trails program, or other NIRPC program funding.