MITCH BARLOGA: A Golden Spoke moment for bistate region

2013-11-07T00:00:00Z MITCH BARLOGA: A Golden Spoke moment for bistate regionBy Mitch Barloga nwitimes.com
November 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Leaders and advocates from Northwest Indiana and the neighboring Chicago Southland came together on the state line between Munster and Lansing recently to officially open the Pennsy Greenway.

The event was called the Golden Spoke Celebration, which echoed the famous Golden Spike ceremony in 1869. Like the Golden Spike, which heralded the first transcontinental railroad connection, the Golden Spoke celebrates the first nonmotorized trail between our two regions.

On hand for the event were representatives who have championed this long-awaited connection. Chief among those were Lan-Oak Park District Superintendent John Wilson, who has been a staunch supporter of the Pennsy Greenway from its inception more than a decade ago. Wilson was the prime mover toward getting the Pennsy built in Lansing in 2007, and continued to push for increased trail miles.

In Indiana, Munster Town Manager Tom DeGuilio has been on the forefront of trail development for his community since the 1990s. DeGuilio has successfully guided his town with the development of Centennial Park, where the Pennsy runs alongside the northern boundary. Thanks to his vision, the Pennsy will be complete in Munster by 2014.

Beyond the state line work, plenty of activity will create a 50-plus mile trail between Crown Point and Chicago via their Lakefront Trail — with the Pennsy Greenway being a main link in this corridor.

In Indiana, Schererville has been actively moving toward completing its section of the Pennsy. In 2011, Schererville opened a two-mile segment in the heart of the community, which has proved abundantly popular. Schererville's next goal is connecting to Munster, and earlier this year the town secured funding to make this happen. Schererville is aiming to open this segment in 2015.

In Illinois, the Pennsy connects to the long-established Burnham Greenway, which runs from Calumet City to the Skyway. However, a three-plus-mile gap has existed for years, forcing riders to use congested side roads. Funding is just about secure to finish this gap, which will include a 1,000-foot bridge over several railroad tracks. The project is expected to be finished by summer 2015, with the portion in Chicago done by next year.

The final link is in Chicago, where a gap remains from Calumet Park north to the South Shore Country Club. Recently a new stretch of Lake Shore Drive opened up with a sidepath alongside, and connections remain north and south of this new segment. However, the completion of a separated route still remains a long-term vision because of financial constraints.

However, there are bike lanes to guide users to the Lakefront Path, and then downtown. In the end residents of both states can look forward to the development of the Pennsy as a major step forward toward unifying our regions.

For more information about this and other regional trails, contact me at mbarloga@nirpc.org or (219) 763-6060.

Mitch Barloga is non-motorized transportation and greenways planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The opinions are the writer's.

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