MUNSTER | The Monon Bike Trail is on the path to construction after the Munster Town Council 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, Munster Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said.
Munster and Hammond will be responsible for the underpasses and maintenance of the bridge, DeGiulio said.
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.