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Upgrades planned for stretch of Calumet Trail
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Upgrades planned for stretch of Calumet Trail

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VALPARAISO — The stretch of the Calumet Trail between Mineral Springs Road and the Dune Park train station is slated for an upgrade.

“We’ve been working on this project rather hard of late,” Director of Development Robert Thompson said.

The county had phases 1 and 2 designed, then NIPSCO began putting in a natural gas line there. Putting the trail over a pipeline didn’t seem like a good idea, so the county went back to the drawing board.

Making it easier for the county is the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District already has done an environmental study for its double-track project in the area, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would accept that wetland delineation for this project, too.

“It has significantly cut our cost for the environmental work,” Thompson said. That knocked off about $40,000 to $45,000 from the cost of the project.

“You guys have been really busy over the last 24 months,” Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, said.

“Especially the last month,” added Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South.

The double-track project is going where the trail was to have gone, Board of Commissioners President Jeff Good, R-Center, said.

The delay in the project worked out well for the county. Had that section of trail been built earlier, the county would have had to paid the relocation cost to move the trail. Now NICTD is taking up that engineering cost of the redesign to make sure the Calumet Trail doesn’t interfere with the railroad’s route.

This is part of a broader project to revamp the trail all the way from the Lake County line to the LaPorte County line, Good said.

The county is meeting with the National Park Service, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, NICTD, Beverly Shores and other major stakeholders and hope to offer a conceptual trail within a month, he said.

“We now have a national park, a real, true national park,” Good said, with the redesignation of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as Indiana Dunes National Park.

“There seems to be a synergy to move this forward,” he said.

“We’re going to come up with a trail that I think is going to be able to move in and out of the parks. We’re going to use existing trails and roads and other things to enhance the trail,” Good said.

That should help bring the cost of the trail down and compress the time frame for the project to get it done quicker.

The double-tracking project should be done by the end of 2023, Good said, and the county is trying to match up with that project.

“Stay tuned on this,” Good said. “There’s going to be much more to come.”

“Always before it seemed like we were pushing a heavy object, that there would be a lot of impediments put in front of us,” he said.

With the stakeholders involved, hurdles are being removed.

It’s not just a case of throwing down more aggregate, Biggs said.

“It’s going to be a much better trail,” Blaney said.

Gallery: Take a hike and explore the more than 50 great trails in the Region

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