Bike trails = increased quality of life

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z Bike trails = increased quality of lifeBy LuAnn Franklin nwitimes.com
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Munster’s 2010 comprehensive plan provides guidance as the town prepares for its future as a mature suburb.

The town’s fourth comprehensive plan since 1938 focuses on several major areas:

• Promoting sustainable growth in this mature community, which has little undeveloped land.

• Supporting transit in the form of a Transit Oriented District in the Lake Business Center, where a new train station would link downtown Chicago and communities to the south.

• Creating a legacy of parks and open spaces.

• Growing as a hub of the regional trail system

• Strengthening infrastructure and improving existing major roads, especially along Calumet Avenue, 45th Street and Ridge Road

• Redeveloping older areas as walkable, mixed use centers

Munster has more miles of bike paths per capita than any other community in Indiana, adding another dimension of recreation and quality of life to this community.

Part of the town’s 20-year comprehensive master plan adopted by the Munster Town Council in May 2011, these dedicated bike trails through the town will link with the regional trail system.

For example, the 1.5-mile stretch of the Pennsy-Greenway/Centennial Bike Path running from Main Street to Calumet Avenue was completed in 2010. Another of the trail now runs from Fisher Street to the State Line and is part of the interstate connection of bike trails. The Centennial Bike Path from the Hart Ditch Bridge south also attracts walkers and bikers.

“Bike paths are just cool,” says Town Manager Tom DeGiulio. “You see couples walking on these paths and parents out with their children. If you look along the lakeshore in Chicago, you see pedestrians and Rollerbladers and bikes. It’s a nice mix.”

And more bike and walking paths soon will wind through the community, thanks to cooperative efforts between Hammond and Munster and the teamwork between the town’s administrative staff and Town Council/Redevelopment Commission.

The Monon Bike Trail is on the path to construction after the Munster Town Council recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Hammond and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

The bike trail would extend through Munster and Hammond and cross the Little Calumet River over a new pedestrian/bike bridge.

That new bridge would replace an old Monon rail trestle that has become a pinch point for debris blocking the flow of water in the river. Crews hired by the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission have experienced problems trying to reach that debris because of the trestle’s construction.

The agreement already has been approved by the NICTD board and Hammond City Council and is a statement of intention, said Eugene Feingold, Munster Town Council attorney.

When the Monon Railroad stopped using the track along the Westlake corridor in 1993, ownership of the railroad right of way was given to NICTD, which operates the South Shore rail lines.

In 1993, Hammond and Munster signed an agreement with NICTD to possibly develop the property as a South Shore rail line.

Since then, bike trails have become part of municipal planning, and the property would help connect existing bike trails in the two communities.

Demolishing the old Monon railroad trestle over the Little Calumet River would be the project’s first step. The new bike/pedestrian bridge would be built on pier columns to prevent debris from collecting under the bridge deck.

The first portion of Hammond’s bike trail would be built north from the Little Calumet River to about Lyman Avenue and Southmoor Street. The northernmost point of Munster’s Monon path would end near Gregory Street and Manor Avenue.

If a South Shore rail line eventually is extended from Hammond to Munster, the bike trail wouldn’t interfere with the tracks and would be separated with a structure for users’ safety, says DeGiulio, who is also director of the Munster Parks Department.

Munster and Hammond will be responsible for the underpasses and maintenance of the bridge, he says.

The agreement remains in effect until the project is completed, but will terminate on Dec. 31, 2020, unless renewed in writing by the three parties.

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