Riding a bike or walking to town centers could become easier and safer for several local communities.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission awarded $402,000 for planning projects that make communities more accessible and connected through its Creating Livable Communities program.
Among the projects awarded a planning grant was the town of Winfield's proposal to create a downtown environment along a commercial strip on Randolph Street off of 109th Avenue and to make the area more accessible by installing sidewalks and street lighting. It also would add bike lanes and walking paths, among other amenities.
Crown Point won planning grant funding for a project to improve connectivity between the city's downtown and revitalized areas along North Street.
The Creating Livable Communities program is a first step to advancing the NIRPC 2040 Comprehensive Plan, planning manager Eman Ibrahim said in announcing the seven grant recipients, chosen from nine applicants.
The program, "promotes investment and redevelopment in the places where people already live and work to create an improved working and living environment that is supported by travel choices," Ibrahim said.
Recipients include Chesterton, East Chicago, Gary, Highland and Porter, along with Crown Point and Winfield.
Chesterton was awarded $24,000 for planning a streetscape to connect the town's historic downtown to the business district on South Calumet Avenue using a multi-use trail.
Other amenities, including lighting and signage to enhance use by people on foot or bicycle, are part of the plan.
East Chicago receives a $60,000 grant to improve transportation between South Shore passenger trains and city bus services, and for planning transit-oriented development, housing and commercial development along Indianapolis Boulevard between Michigan Avenue and 149th Street.
In Gary, a neighborhood plan that encompasses the city's downtown, Emerson and Horace Mann neighborhoods would focus on improving walkability in the neighborhoods, helping to create economic vitality.
The Gary funding award of $150,000 also is for planning to improve connectivity to the South Shore rail station, the RailCats stadium and areas along Lake Michigan, including the Marquette Park Pavilion and the beach.
Highland was awarded $24,000 for planning that would identify land, buildings and parcels that could be redeveloped or re-purposed leading to creating more jobs and amenities for residents.
A Highland art district included in the plan would have the Town Theater as its focal point. The town's Redevelopment Commission purchased it for rehabilitation.
A $32,000 award to the town of Porter is for a planning project to design new streetscapes for the downtown, meant to improve walkability with sidewalks, crosswalks, lighting, landscaping and signage.
Winfield was awarded $40,000 for planning its project; Crown Point was awarded $72,000.