A new pedestrian bridge linking trails in Hammond and Whiting is now open to the public.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura hailed the bridge as a vital link between the two communities. Local officials stood on the new expanse over Indianapolis Boulevard and New York Avenue during a special ceremony Thursday.

The $4.1 million project was funded by a grant the Hammond Port Authority received from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

“This project right here is one of the linchpins I think, and quite frankly maybe one day this will be what the RDA is known for — literally bridging two communities together, Whiting and Hammond,” McDermott said at the ceremony.

The bridge connects the George Lake Bike Trail in Hammond to the Whiting Lakefront Trail.

“This bridge couldn't have linked two better cities together,” said Dennis Hardesty, chairman of the Hammond Port Authority board of directors. “The addition of this bridge is another way to enhance the beauty of Hammond. I'm sure it will serve many people taking advantage of Hammond and Whiting's unique scenery.”

In all, the RDA provided $31.4 million to kick off a dozen projects in the area.

Plans also call for a trail to extend south from the Pavilion at Wolf Lake to 129th Street, a conservatory north of the Aquatic Play Center and the relocation of Sheffield Avenue for use as a park road.

As a final push for the project, a trail is planned to run on NIPSCO property on the west side of Wolf Lake.

Hammond City Councilman Mark Kalwinski, D-1st, said the Marquette Plan envisioned a trail along the lakefront.

“It really does symbolize unity and togetherness — and what you can do when communities come together with a plan," Kalwinski said.

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