Grant sought to finish Marquette Greenway, a proposed bike trail linking Chicago and Michigan

Chicago Post-Tribune

A decade-long effort to create a bike and pedestrian path from Chicago to Michigan could soon move closer to completion.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission is seeking a federal grant to finish the remaining 30 miles of trail for the Marquette Greenway, according to the grant application. The Marquette Greenway project started in 2005 and 28 miles have been completed or have guaranteed funding.

The new funds would come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Grant. The Lake County Council submitted a letter July 10 supporting the project, but declined to commit any matching funds.

Mitch Barloga, NIRPC’s active transportation manager, said the request is for roughly $23 million, and that would cover 20 individual pieces of the final 30 miles of trail. The total cost of the Greenway is $34 million, he said.

“It’s competitive. It’s a nationwide process,” Barloga said.

NIRPC was unsuccessful in previous attempts to seek funding from U.S.D.O.T. Barloga said he heard that the project scored high, but fell short of receiving the grant.

Barloga said the federal agency is making more funding available this year, and NIRPC has coordinated with local, state and federal partners in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to show support for the Marquette Greenway.

“I can’t predict anything at this point,” Barloga said. “I’m just hopeful.”

The remaining 30 miles of trail are in Chicago, Hammond, Gary, Portage, Michigan City, New Buffalo, Ogden Dunes, Burns Harbor and through several Indiana and Michigan counties. The idea was for a 58-mile trail from Calumet Park in Chicago to new Buffalo, Mich., to help revitalize the Lake Michigan shoreline.

“Recreational trails are an integral component of improving the quality of place in Northwest Indiana to stimulate the growth of our population and economy,” said Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, in an email. “They provide the ideal way to enjoy the wondrous terrain of our region and connect our communities.

“I commend NIRPC on their vision and their application,” Visclosky said. “I believe that their proposal will augment the prior investments made along our lakeshore and will continue to improve our ability to draw new people and businesses to our tri-county area.”