In a recent post, I commented on a new Marshall County Bike/Ped path in Plymouth. Today I am concentrating on St. Joe County. Cyclists look at the huge need for friendlier places for biking and walking, and often get discouraged. But progress is being made. Listed below are nine improvements in the county that have been recently completed, or are on the drawing board for the near future.
Some would say the Mishawaka Riverwalk is the most impressive project in the county. It would be hard to make a case against that claim. The path that hugs the St. Joseph River complements the overhaul from a toxic industrial area in city center to an urban area that is as good as any around. It also is a part of the IN-MI Trail. Mainly along the north bank of the river, the trail extends from the Mishawaka City Limits on the west (Logan St.), almost to Cedar St. on the east, a distance of over 1.3 miles.
The longest trail constructed recently is the northern leg of South Bend’s Riverside Trail, at about 1.7 miles. This is an example of converting a lovely area into a lovely area people can enjoy. There are frequent overlooks, and vegetation has been trimmed just enough to allow visitors to watch the geese, the ducks, and the occasional osprey that nest nearby. More importantly perhaps, is that this trail linked the existing southern leg of Riverside Trail from about Oakwood Blvd. to its northern cousin, the unnamed trail along Darden Road.
The Jackson Road Bike/Ped trail is about 0.6 miles long as it meanders from the corner of Linden & Jackson Rd. to the corner of Johnson Rd. and Lilac Dr. It travels through open rolling land owned by St. Joseph County. This county property is an old landfill that has recently been capped. Someday, it will hopefully be a county park.
Mishawaka built a bike/ped underpass at Merrifield Ave, under Mishawaka Ave. Sometimes referred to as the Merrifield Connector, the underpass allows safe and peaceful movement under a busy street. The tunnel was part of a larger job of rehabilitating the bridge over the St. Joseph River, which was becoming unsafe. This is a good example of solving two problems at one time with a single action.
Link the Links. The Northside Boulevard Trail through the River Park neighborhood of South Bend, will tie Mishawaka’s Riverwalk with the East Bank Trail. The new trail section, about 1.1 miles in length has a projected completion date of 2011 or perhaps 2012. It will run from about the IUSB campus eastward to the South Bend/Mishawaka city line at Logan St. One unusual feature of this project is that it will preserve lovely historic stonework along the St. Joseph River which was built during the depression. Another unusual feature is that it will include the closure of portions of Northside Blvd., thus eliminating what some local residents refer to as a ‘racetrack’.
“Friends of Granger Paths” has worked closely with county and regional officials to get some bike/ped infrastructure in place. Granger Paths, is a model of grass roots activism. They have a good network in mind, and the first step will be a 0.9 mile section hopefully breaking ground in 2011 or 2012. It will run along Adams Rd. from Elm Rd. to Cherry Rd. and along Cherry Rd. from Adams Rd to Northpoint Elementary School.
A new Bike/Ped path has been completed along Darden Rd. This path links the Historic Darden Bridge to SR 933, which is a significant business corridor north of Roseland/Notre Dame. As mentioned above, it ties into South Bend’s Riverside Trail. At the eastern end of the new trail is Christ the King Elementary School, and near the western end is the Isaac Walton League property. Perhaps more importantly, it crosses the proposed LaSalle Trail, which is also a piece of the IN-MI Trail.
The IUSB Bike/Ped path on the south side of the St Joe River allows residents of the ‘River Crossing’ student housing a non-motorized route to both the campus and shopping. This ½ mile path borders the river and the housing units. The file photo at below is the most recent available, but shows neither the new housing, the athletic fields, nor the bike/ped bridge that crosses the river. This is a fine example of integrating alternative transportation modes into new housing development.
Here’s another example of solving two problems with a single action. On Gumwood Rd., St. Joseph County is planning to add motorized travel lanes, while simultaneously adding a bike/ped path. This path will be more than two miles long, extending from the Mishawaka City Limits to the Michigan State Line. It will link the Granger Christian School with homes both north and south. It will also add bike access to shopping at its southern terminus. The path will probably be built in two phases, hopefully sometime between 2011 and 2013. Of course these plans are subject to change due to finances.
All of the new construction I’ve mentioned in this post shows that America is putting more and more resources into alternative modes of transportation. But there is room for more improvement; the ‘People For Bikes’ organization points out that Biking and walking currently comprise 12% of trips that Americans make, but cost just 1.5% of our transportation spending. They also point out that more bicycles are sold each year than cars and trucks combined.