Dyer wants to move forward with acquiring abandoned rail line

2012-08-27T00:00:00Z Dyer wants to move forward with acquiring abandoned rail lineMary Wilds Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 27, 2012 12:00 am  • 

DYER | The Town Council wants to move ahead with efforts to acquire a soon-to-be abandoned rail line in Dyer and eventually turn it into a bike path.

The town has a limited opportunity in which to make its move, Parks Director Mark Heintz told the Town Council.

There will be a meeting Thursday at Dyer Town Hall to discuss acquiring the Norfolk Southern line. Officials from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, the National Park Service and the town of Schererville also are expected to attend.

Dyer would have 30 days from the official announcement of rail abandonment to place its petition for the line. Dyer then would have 180 days to negotiate a price.

At this point, there is no indication what the line would cost, Heintz said.

Norfolk Southern is looking to abandon 6.3 miles of rail line. Dyer has the largest piece of that line, which runs from Calumet Avenue to the town line south of Central Park and a small industrial area near Dyer Public Works.

The 6.3-mile line runs as far east as the Indianapolis Boulevard Bridge and as far west as Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago Heights.

If developed into a bike path, the Norfolk Southern Corridor eventually could hook up to the Old Plank Road bike trail, which runs as far west as Joliet, Ill.

The eastern end of the Norfolk Southern line is near the Pennsy Greenway bike trail in Schererville, which is being extended to connect with portions of the Pennsy Greenway already in place in Munster and Lansing.

When completed, the 10-mile Pennsy Greenway will connect to the Erie Lackawanna trail and Veterans Memorial Trail in Crown Point, as well as to the 450-mile Burnham Greenway/Grand Illinois Trail System in Illinois.

Dyer has kept its eye on the Norfolk Southern line for a while because of its inactivity, Heintz said.

Paths and walking trails have been a longtime priority for the Dyer Parks Department, but the Norfolk Southern line would give the town a chance for federal transportation dollars.

Federal money covers 80 percent of the cost of eligible bike paths, with local communities paying the remaining 20 percent.

Obtaining the rail line and turning it into a bike path is a long process, officials saidd.

If there are any parts of the Norfolk Southern line that involve individual property owners, there will have to be separate negotiations, Town Attorney Bill Enslen said.

For example, some companies obtain only an easement that allows them to put a rail line through; the deed to the property remains with the original owner.

If there are such easements along the Norfolk Southern line, Dyer will have to deal with them individually.

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