Chesterton Tribune

State picks contractor for Porter Brickyard Trail; work to begin

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“Let's get this thing built,” said Porter Redevelopment Commission member Michele Bollinger.

Town director of engineering Matt Keiser had just announced that a contract for the long-awaited Porter Brickyard hike/bike trail, almost a decade in the planning stages, has been let.

Low bidder Rieth-Riley Construction of Elkhart at $2.997 million was chosen by the Indiana Department of Transportation. Porter previously was awarded $2 million in federal funds for the trail and INDOT administers such grants.

The Redevelopment Commission voted 5-0 to authorize INDOT to enter into the necessary contracts. Keiser said the $2.997 million was over the engineer's estimate but still under INDOT's ceiling before a rebid was required.

Rieth-Riley will be allowed to begin clearing trees within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for the Brickyard Trail, which will link the lakeshore trail system with but stop short of the Prairie Duneland Trail in Chesterton.

Minor Brickyard roadwork also will be done but Keiser said the asphalt plants will be closing soon so the 3.2 miles of asphalt trail won't be laid until the spring.

The Brickyard also includes an elevated pedestrian bridge over U.S. 20 near Howe Road. At one time an underground tunnel was planned.

For several years the Brickyard Trail was plagued with design changes and citizen opposition, especially in downtown Porter, over proposed routes for the 8 foot-wide trail with 1-foot gravel shoulders on either side. The current route has been the most popular along Howe to Mineral Springs Road south, then east on Beam Street to Sexton Avenue south and finally terminating east on Lincoln Street at Wagner Road.

Getting the Brickyard built as well as a companion Orchard Pedestrian Way hike/bike trail along Waverly Road has been a goal of the incumbent Town Council.

Keiser said engineers are preparing a schedule for advancing the Pedway to construction, and right-of-way can be acquired.

The Brickyard is also the namesake of the Porter Redevelopment Commission's 32-acre residential/commercial project at the southwest corner of Beam and Sexton. Branches off the Brickyard Trail will wind around and through the development.

Economic consultant Matt Reardon of SEH said in about two or three months the Brickyard project will come into sharper focus as potential developers consider their options; a senior-living center is planned as the central anchor in addition to single-family, townhome units, rowhouses and neighborhood commercial.

The Brickyard includes land set aside for a new town fire station and other municipal uses.

Reardon said while developers look at return on investment, the town isn't in it for profit. Its goals would be creating jobs, increasing tax revenue and the prestige of snagging a high-end tenant like Portage did with Bass Pro Shop.

The Redevelopment Commission paid $350,000 for the Brickyard site and is in the process of getting zoning approvals to make it more attractive to developers. Reardon said Porter's willingness to be flexible with incentives and its commitment to $4.6 million in sewer upgrades puts it ahead of many communities competing for developer interest.


Posted 11/24/2010