SOUTH BEND — Plans have begun to take shape for the development of Coal Line Trail, a proposed multi-use pathway from the East Bank Trail to Lincoln Way West on the near northwest side.
The Board of Public Works this week approved a coordination agreement for Phase 1 of the project — Lincoln Way West to Riverside Drive — with the Indiana Department of Transportation.
INDOT will fund 80 percent of the project with U.S. Department of Transportation dollars, commencing with Phase 1 in 2019 and Phase 2 — Riverside to the East Bank Trail — in 2020.
Taking advantage of the abandoned Norfolk Southern coal line, the trail will extend west from the East Bank Trail, over the St. Joseph River, beneath Portage Avenue to Lincoln Way West.
The trail will pass behind the homes on the north side of Angela Boulevard between North Lafayette Boulevard and Portage Avenue, and on the west side of Diamond Avenue between Portage and Lincoln Way West.
Norfolk Southern abandoned the rail line, including a bridge over the St. Joseph River, several years ago, and adjacent property owners, including more than 80 homeowners, now own the right-of-way.
Completion of the project will require the purchase of that right-of-way back from the new owners, Public Works Director Eric Horvath said.
It also will require additional engineering work to assess the condition of the bridge, Horvath said, which may have sustained structural damage before it was closed in the 1990s.
“It does need some work, apparently,” Horvath said. “The story was that they were bringing a load of coal across (the bridge) and felt the whole thing start to tip and stopped the train and never used it again.”
The concrete bridge currently is fenced off on both sides for safety.
Conversion of the former rail line for use by walkers, joggers and bicyclists has been on the drawing board since at least 2010, when it was included in the 2010-2012 Bicycle Master Plan.
“This goes back to the Smart Streets initiative and the idea of healthy living and having amenities like trails and bike paths and pedestrian amenities throughout the community,” Deputy Public Works Director Jitin Kain said.