By Joe Dits
South Bend Tribune
MICHIGAN CITY – An effort to build a 60-mile paved trail from New Buffalo, Mich., to Chicago has won a nearly $18 million federal grant to help finish the 26 miles that haven’t already been paved or fully financed.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant for the Marquette Greenway on Tuesday.
The money will be used in 14 separate construction projects in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, including Gary, Ogden Dunes, Portage, Burns Harbor and Michigan City in Indiana, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan’s office.
At about $17.8 million, it’s shy of the $23.1 million originally sought.
“We’ll make it work,” said Mitch Barloga, transportation manager for the agency that applied for the funding, the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
Other matching dollars have already been pledged to those trail sections, but now it’s likely that more will have to be sought. Given the momentum and backing of the federal dollars, Barloga said, “Raising $5 million is a lot easier with this award.”
Several letters of support from governmental entities along the route had gone into the application.
NIRPC had applied unsuccessfully for the federal grant for the trail in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Barloga said prior administrations have had different priorities for the large, highly competitive grants. The Department of Transportation is now led by Secretary Pete Buttigieg, South Bend’s former mayor.
Among the greenway’s recently completed sections, the Singing Sands Trail now has four paved miles through Michigan City, connecting the Indiana Dunes National Park to downtown and on to other parks and rural Trail Creek.
There are plans to add five more miles, extending it east to the Michigan border. Likewise, the federal grant would be used to reroute the Calumet Trail through the Indiana Dunes, saving it from its current dilemma of a gravel path that floods easily.
This article is made available by Hoosier State Press Association.