Next stage of right-of-way purchase in the extension of the Westchester-Liberty trail

New Chesterton Police Constables Nicholas Vanni (left) and Darren Conley are sworn into their posts by Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Udvare. JAMES WOODS/Picture

An engineering company has been hired by the City of Chesterton to manage the acquisition of the right-of-way for the proposed one-mile extension of the present Westchester-Liberty Trail.

City Council on Monday approved the contract with American Structurepoint to assist with land acquisition services to prepare the way for construction of the trail.

The Westchester-Liberty Trail is an 8-foot-wide paved boardwalk that connects to the Prairie Duneland Trail and runs along County Road 1100 N, now stopping at N. Fifth Street. The extension would allow cyclists and pedestrians to have a direct connection to the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve and its trails on the east side of Ind. 49.

City Engineer Mark O’Dell said the trail extension will continue on County Road 1100 N from Fifth Street along the north side, then head south to the Tamarack Subdivision, downhill to County Road 100 East – also known as the Rail Road – for the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve.

O’Dell said a $1.3 million grant was approved by the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission for the project.

The council also gave approval for the town to hire Robinson Engineering Ltd. to provide services to Chesterton, along with seven other communities in Porter County, to install traffic lights that would automatically switch on and off when a police or fire department responds to an emergency.

There are 59 traffic lights that would be affected in Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, Portage, Portage Township, Liberty Township, South Haven and Ogden Dunes.

The contract is for $230,875, but other communities would have a share in paying for the engineering work, O’Dell said. The project is scheduled for 2025 or 2026.

Another future road project that is in the planning stage is the reconstruction of the intersection of Ind. 49 and Indian Boundary Road. Councilman James Ton (R-District 1) said the Indiana Department of Transportation has tentatively scheduled the project for 2024.

Ton said improving the intersection would help, along with other safety measures on the Ind. 49, including reducing the speed limit and restricting trucks to outside lanes.

Chesterton Police Chief Tim Richardson introduced his two new officers, Darren Conley and Nicholas Vanni, to the council. They were also officially sworn into office by Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Udvare.

Conley and Vanni both worked for the Highland Police Department and held the rank of corporal. Conley was a detective supervisor while Vanni was the patrol supervisor.

Both veteran officers, Conley has 11 years of law enforcement experience while Vanni worked 10 years in law enforcement. Conley lives in Chesterton and Vanni is a Porter resident.

Richardson thanked the council for improving police pay because the city can better recruit experienced officers to fill vacancies. The chief has indicated his preference for hiring fully trained veteran officers.

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