On Friday, February 6th, representatives from Bike Michiana Coalition and Michiana Watershed met with an area planner and a park representative regarding further development of the LaSalle Trail, which could eventually connect South Bend, IN with Niles, MI. See below for a list of participants.
The LaSalle Trail utilizes an abandoned rail bed and currently extends 0.6 miles from Cripe St to Cleveland Rd (see map below), but could eventually extend an additional 2.5 miles to the Michigan state line. Furthermore, one of the meeting participants, Steve Slauson, is part of a two-state effort seeking federal funds for a larger trail network that would include the LaSalle Trail and connect Mishawaka and South Bend all the way to Niles.
However, a major impediment for continued progress at this point is the trail’s crossing of Cleveland Rd; this was the meeting’s primary focus. Area engineers strongly recommend the construction of a bridge that would span both Cleveland Rd and Juday Creek. A tunnel is not feasible due to the high water table, and an at-grade crossing is contraindicated by the engineers due to the volume and speed of traffic along Cleveland Rd, further compounded by reduced eastbound visibility due to a curve in the road.
Unfortunately, preliminary cost estimates for the bridge range from $1.5 to 3M, which will be very difficult to raise in this economic climate. However, the clear need for such north-south bicycle / pedestrian access, combined with the planning and support already underway, could warrant consideration for this as a “shovel-ready” project for the proposed national economic stimulus bill.
BMC and MW representatives will next meet with a St. Joseph County Engineer for additional planning, and will then seek a meeting with county commissioners.
The meeting took place at the White Barn in St. Patrick’s County Park and included the following participants:
- Larry Magliozzi, Assistant Director for the Area Plan Commission of St. Joseph County
- Jeff Nixa, President of Bike Michiana Coalition
- Ken Sauer, President of Michiana Watershed
- Henry Scott, Communications Director for Bike Michiana Coalition and Secretary for Michiana Watershed
- Steve Slauson, Deputy Director for St. Joseph County Parks and Park and Recreation Agencies Representative for the DNR’s Trail Advisory Board
- Don Sporleder, Member of Michiana Watershed and Pedestrian Representative for the DNR’s Trail Advisory Board
- JoAnn Sporleder, Member of Michiana Watershed and longtime advocate for the LaSalle Trail
Additional details about the trail can be found at the St. Joseph County Park’s website.
The blue line shows the currently completed section. If you pan or zoom out, you can see the proposed continuation north to the IN state line in red, and the potential for further connections along the rail bed to Niles (north) and Riverside Drive (south) in green.
The already completed East Bank Trail from the East Race in downtown South Bend to Angela Blvd is shown in purple. The southerly connections to Riverside Dr and / or The East Bank Trail will be difficult due to existing development through St. Mary’s and Holly Cross Colleges, and the need for a bridge across the I-80/90 onramp. As an historical side note, Don Sporleder tried to encourage the incorporation of a bicycle / pedestrian viaduct across the onramp when it was developed years ago but was, unfortunately, unsuccessful.
Furthermore, although not used for many years, a company proposed using the rail line between Riverside Dr and St. Mary’s and Holy Cross Colleges for coal delivery just a couple of years ago. If such interest is still in play, this will continue to be an additional obstacle.