VALPARAISO — A spiderweb of pathways are keeping residents connected.
Anyone willing can bike or walk from the city's northwest side to developments across Ind. 49 on the far east side. Equally, they can hop on a trail near Rogers-Lakewood Park and travel south into the core of the city and beyond.
For nearly 20 years, the city has been working on installing pathways to connect residents to the downtown core and to each other.
"The first major leg was done under Mayor (David Butterfield) along Campbell Street from Rogers-Lakewood to Cooks Corners. We built on that beginning, but made it a higher priority," said Mayor Jon Costas, adding the city is at the point of making key connections throughout the city.
Since that first trail was laid, nearly 20 additional miles of 8-foot-wide pathways, put in with public and private funding, are now crisscrossing the city. That's in addition to the several miles of traditional 5-foot-wide sidewalks installed around schools within the city through the Safe Routes to Schools federal grant program.
Just recently the city's park board approved spending $250,000 to construct pathways along Froberg Road, connecting developments on the city's northwest side to the Vale Park pathway, said parks superintendent John Siebert. Just less than a mile, these new pathways are being funded through impact fees, collected from developers and restricted for use for new projects such as the pathways.
Siebert said Gariup Construction, of Gary, should begin the project shortly and, weather permitting, will take 60 to 90 days to complete.
Siebert said the subdivisions along the way have already stubbed out pathways from the development to the new pathways.
Work is also progressing on a pathway along the north side of U.S. 30 from Hayes-Leonard Road east to Washington Street, said Adam McAlpine, city engineering director. That includes a bridge over Salt Creek.
The U.S. 30 project is funded from a partnership the city has with the Indiana Department of Transportation. In 2012 the city took control and responsibility for a 5.6-mile stretch of U.S. 130/Lincolnway in exchange for a package from INDOT that includes $2 million in cash and a pledge of $18 million in federal funds.
McAlpine said it isn't only public money being invested in the pathways. Developers are required to install the wider-than-normal walkways as part of their development with the intention of filling in the gaps between the pieces either through new development or by the city.
The city also recently completed a portion of a pathway which connects the 5-point roundabout to Sturdy Road. They are looking to take it farther east, connecting to Silhavy Road, which would allow people to safely traverse across the Vale Park Road/Ind. 49 overpass to the east of the city.
"We wanted to create a walk-able community and we built that into the plan," said McAlpine, adding the 8-foot-wide pathways allow people to walk side-by-side or allow people on bicycles or on foot to easily pass each other.
"They are really linear parks, helping people to remain active. They are encouraging people to drive less and peddle more," said Costas, a bicycling enthusiast himself.
"We are looking at it in a holistic sense," said Costas, adding the pathways that will take people from one end of the city and beyond onto county roads, also provide safer travel for people walking and biking and for those who may not have vehicles and have to walk to shops and stores for essentials.