July 07, 2014 6:22 pm • Rob Earnshaw
Walkers, runners and cyclists can enjoy using two trails in the city without the concern of crossing busy streets.
Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. and the city of Hammond officially opened two pedestrian bridges on Monday, the Erie-Lackawanna Trail bridge spanning Columbia Avenue and 167th Street near Southeastern Avenue and the Monon Trail bridge over 165th Street and Lyman Avenue.
“This makes Hammond a more bicycle friendly city,” McDermott said at the Erie-Lackawanna Trail bridge. “Not only is it safe, it promotes a healthy lifestyle. Bike trails are the future.”
McDermott said it’s a blessing that in older communities like Hammond, East Chicago and Gary old, abandoned rail lines can be converted into bike trails.
“We’re linking all these trails together and making a first-class trail system,” he said.
McDermott lauded the opening last year of three miles of new trail connecting downtown Hammond with the border of Munster. Later this summer that link to Munster will be complete with the opening of a new bridge over the Little Calumet River just east of Homan Avenue.
Mitch Barloga, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission transportation planning manager, said Hammond is a community that cares about nonmotorized access.
“You can go throughout all of this region and you’re going to have a lot of areas where trails intersect with busy roadways,” he said. “These bridges are crossing two very busy roadways. The mayor and Hammond decided it was important enough to actually use the monies to get this accomplished.
“I work with federal monies all the time and, of course, that takes forever. Some projects take 10 years. He knows he has a critical issue here and it had to be addressed.”
The city paid for the bridges with gaming revenue. The dual-span Erie Lackawanna Trail bridge cost $1.8 million and the single-span Monon Trail bridge cost $1.5 million, City Engineer Stan Dostatni said.
Dostatni said the city just received a grant from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to build an Erie-Lackawanna Trail bridge across Calumet Avenue and Conkey Street. Construction won’t begin sooner than 2016, he said.