Chicago to Help Build New Bike Trail to Michigan

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Courtesy of Toby Sterling (Flickr CC0)

The Marquette Greenway trail is a proposed bike path connecting the Chicago’s Southeast side to New Buffalo, Michigan. Its aim is to provide a safe way for cyclists to commute across state lines along the lakefront.

The project has been 20 years in the making. It is part of several plans to allow commuters to travel from Chicago to Michigan and help link the Midwest together little by little. Advocates from Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are getting closer to making this bicyclist’s dream a reality.

The Final Stretch

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Courtesy of Chris Rycroft (Flickr CC0)

The 58-mile trail is near completion. Bicyclists can travel on the finished Illinois portion stretching from Calumet Park to the Indiana border. Another 22 miles in the Indiana section is also completed. Supporters of the Marquette Greenway have now secured funding to finish the next 32 miles.

A $17.8 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation was set aside for the project last year. The Indiana Dunes National Park and nine municipalities contributed another $5.2 million. Indiana supporters and planners are also working towards securing funding for a small section near Burns Harbor that is one mile long. It is estimated that work on these sections will be complete by the end of 2026 or early 2027.

What remains to be funded now is the final four miles in Michigan. The Friends of Berrien County Trails and other locals want to raise $250,000 by the end of the year for this last part of the trail. Organizers are holding a New Buffalo fundraising event at Bentwood Tavern on Nov. 3. Half of the revenue from the food and drink sales will go towards the trail. Gary Wood is one of the people behind the fundraiser. He hopes the community will rally behind the project and support it in its final stages.

So many years of hard work are finally coming to fruition, and we are looking forward to the community rallying around this last, important financial effort to complete the trail to New Buffalo. Our dream is to one day have a nonmotorized trail that goes all the way to the Mackinac Bridge.

The Michigan portion will be completed in two stages. The first will run from Grand Beach to downtown New Buffalo. Then the second will connect Grand Beach to the Indiana state border. Work will begin in spring 2023 and hopefully conclude in early 2025.

Chicago and the Midwest’s Biking Culture

Many streets in cities now have bike lanes, but some commuters would prefer a path be allocated just for them. Sharing a road with cars can be dangerous, and bicyclists could do without traffic lights always stopping their journey. Marcy Hamilton is the deputy executive director for the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. Plenty of Chicagoans and people from southwest Michigan love to take day trips by bike according to her. She sees the Marquette Greenway as a great opportunity to make these trips more accessible.

“It’s known that people from Chicago love to vacation in harbor country in southwest Michigan. It’s very common for Southwest Michigan folks to take a day trip in Chicago. Being able to do it by bike would definitely be advantageous. The environmental, social and economic benefits are all there when you do trail projects for communities.”

The trail will pass through some popular tourist destinations like the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and reach some botanical gardens and parks in Michigan City, Indiana. While the trail will help people take long cycling trips, local commuters in the region will also be able to benefit, according to Hamilton.

More to Come

There are more plans to link parts of the Midwest by bike path and bring the region together little by little. Along with the Marquette Greenway, another trail connecting New Buffalo to South Haven, Michigan, is under development. The plan is to link Chicago to Michigan’s Great Lake-to-Lake trail system. Route 1 of five planned projects will be located in lower Michigan. It will start in South Haven and will pass through Kalamazoo, Jackson, metro Detroit, and end at Port Huron. With spots in the trail finally covered, people will be able to travel on a bike-friendly path from the Southeast side of Chicago to Lake Huron.

Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi

Sources:

Block Club Chicago: A New Trail Will Make It Safer And Easier To Bike From Chicago To Michigan; by Maxwell Evans
Crain’s: A new 58-mile bike trail will connect Chicago to Michigan; by Jack Grieve
WKFR 103.3: New 58-Mile Trail Makes it Possible for Michiganders to Bike All The Way to Chicago; by Lauren Gordon

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Toby Sterling’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Chris Rycroft’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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