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Brand new bike trail to replace old railway across Michiana

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- “Right now, coming to Lincoln Way, there’s got to be a lot done there before you’re going to have people coming,” said John Oxian about a new project coming to his neighborhood. Residents in South Bends Near Northwest Side are weighing in on it.

From rail to trail, the Coal Line Trail project is a new pedestrian and bike trail that will eventually run from Mishawaka through South Bend and into Niles. But it’s not just any trail; city leaders are taking a 200-year-old railway path and turning it into that trail.

“It used to deliver coal to the Notre Dame Power Plant. And it connected the main train line through South Bend, the west side of town, across the river, and up through Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s and to Notre Dame,” said Tim Corcoran, Director of Planning with the City of South Bend.

Behind a fence near the corner of Angela Boulevard and Riverside Drive, you can see part of the railroad still remains there, but you’ll also notice that some of the railroad has already been picked up out of the ground.

“Phase 1 and phase 2 will connect Lincoln Way through to the river and then from the river to 933. Phase 3, which is just in ‘concept phase’ right now, is south of Lincoln Way [West] to Western,” explained Corcoran.

And the roots run deep in that neighborhood. John Oxian actually remembers that train.

“When they crossed Lincoln Way [West], train used to stop, conductor would get out, walk to the middle of the street, stop the public, train goes through,” said Oxian.

Community members, like Oxian, were given a chance to get involved, see some drawings, and ask questions. It also gave city officials permission from the state to move forward with the project. But Oxian thinks the city should meet other needs before focusing on the new trail.

“You have to really improve the area, bring business back, bring some residential back and all that and then you might get people to come there. If you don’t, what are they going to come out to Lincoln Way for,” said Oxian.

But because he owns almost a dozen rental properties in the area, he’s willing to give it a try.

“I hope it improves everything. I hope it does. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” said Oxian.

If all goes as planned, construction is meant to start in 2020 for phase 1, and in 2021 for phase 2.

Click here for more on that project. (Scroll to the bottom of the 'Coal Line Trail' page to click on past presentations for pictures)

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