Bike Michiana

resources, news, observations and ideas about bicycling in the Michiana area

The LaSalle Trail Project

Posted by Henry Scott on February 8, 2009

On Friday, February 6th, representatives from Bike Michiana Coalition and Michiana Watershed met with an area planner and a park representative regarding further development of the LaSalle Trail, which could eventually connect South Bend, IN with Niles, MI. See below for a list of participants.

The LaSalle Trail utilizes an abandoned rail bed and currently extends 0.6 miles from Cripe St to Cleveland Rd (see map below), but could eventually extend an additional 2.5 miles to the Michigan state line. Furthermore, one of the meeting participants, Steve Slauson, is part of a two-state effort seeking federal funds for a larger trail network that would include the LaSalle Trail and connect Mishawaka and South Bend all the way to Niles.

However, a major impediment for continued progress at this point is the trail’s crossing of Cleveland Rd; this was the meeting’s primary focus. Area engineers strongly recommend the construction of a bridge that would span both Cleveland Rd and Juday Creek. A tunnel is not feasible due to the high water table, and an at-grade crossing is contraindicated by the engineers due to the volume and speed of traffic along Cleveland Rd, further compounded by reduced eastbound visibility due to a curve in the road.

Unfortunately, preliminary cost estimates for the bridge range from $1.5 to 3M, which will be very difficult to raise in this economic climate. However, the clear need for such north-south bicycle / pedestrian access, combined with the planning and support already underway, could warrant consideration for this as a “shovel-ready” project for the proposed national economic stimulus bill.

BMC and MW representatives will next meet with a St. Joseph County Engineer for additional planning, and will then seek a meeting with county commissioners.

The meeting took place at the White Barn in St. Patrick’s County Park and included the following participants:

  • Larry Magliozzi, Assistant Director for the Area Plan Commission of St. Joseph County
  • Jeff Nixa, President of Bike Michiana Coalition
  • Ken Sauer, President of Michiana Watershed
  • Henry Scott, Communications Director for Bike Michiana Coalition and Secretary for Michiana Watershed
  • Steve Slauson, Deputy Director for St. Joseph County Parks and Park and Recreation Agencies Representative for the DNR’s Trail Advisory Board
  • Don Sporleder, Member of Michiana Watershed and Pedestrian Representative for the DNR’s Trail Advisory Board
  • JoAnn Sporleder, Member of Michiana Watershed and longtime advocate for the LaSalle Trail

Additional details about the trail can be found at the St. Joseph County Park’s website.


The blue line shows the currently completed section. If you pan or zoom out, you can see the proposed continuation north to the IN state line in red, and the potential for further connections along the rail bed to Niles (north) and Riverside Drive (south) in green.

The already completed East Bank Trail from the East Race in downtown South Bend to Angela Blvd is shown in purple. The southerly connections to Riverside Dr and / or The East Bank Trail will be difficult due to existing development through St. Mary’s and Holly Cross Colleges, and the need for a bridge across the I-80/90 onramp. As an historical side note, Don Sporleder tried to encourage the incorporation of a bicycle / pedestrian viaduct across the onramp when it was developed years ago but was, unfortunately, unsuccessful.

Furthermore, although not used for many years, a company proposed using the rail line between Riverside Dr and St. Mary’s and Holy Cross Colleges for coal delivery just a couple of years ago. If such interest is still in play, this will continue to be an additional obstacle.


13 Responses to “The LaSalle Trail Project”

  1. Henry Scott said

    Just by coincidence, I joined a running group today, and after heading up Riverside Dr and east on Darden, our return trip south took us along the completed section of the LaSalle Trail. Despite the recent warming, it was still covered in snow, but the value of this trail seemed quite clear.

  2. Adam Bee said

    I have sometimes (perhaps illegitimately) cut through the St. Mary’s, Holy Cross, and St. Joe HS campi in order to connect up to the East Race trail. It seems to me that there should be a way to get all three of those properties connected to those two trails.

    I think the increased connectivity by bicycle to outlying areas would be very appealing to those communities, with perhaps decreased security as a downside.

    Perhaps a compromise possibility with fewer security problems might be a separated path running alongside 933. Notre Dame has already built a very nice path along Twyckenham–this one would be even more useful to its students and the community at large.

  3. John Hennessey said

    I am a Notre Dame student who occasionally uses this trail as part of a route to get to the Niles train station, and think it would be terrific if the trail could be extended all the way (I currently take Keniworth Road at the end of the trail the rest of the way). I think that this trail has great potential to connect not only South Bend and Niles, but to provide a safer, “back” way for residents, especially students, to bike to the businesses and restaurants along 31. I agree with the previous post that this trail needs to be better connected to the university campuses and especially the new trail east of Notre Dame. It would not be difficult to extend the end of this trail, now by the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, to 31 and then use the sidewalk on the west side of the road, which has a crosswalk for the onramp, to get to the LaSalle trail. There is currently a legal battle underway for control of the abandoned railroad tracks that run between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, but with any luck, this will eventually be turned into a trail connecting the LaSalle trail with the East Bank trail as well.

  4. Bill Wasierski said

    I don’t agree with the need for extending the LaSalle Trail. Just 1/2 mile West is the Riverside Trail. As a frequent I have traveled the LaSalle trail and find it useful. However, the work required to make the old railbed safe is cost prohibitive. How do you bridge Cleveland for less than 2-3 million. How do you cross Auten without bridging. Now way can you construct a bridge there also. What about Stateline, Fulkerson, and eventually US12 just west of the main interchange with M-59. This is to expensive.

    Push for bike lanes on Laurel, add a crossing signal at Auten, and take the trail through St. Pats. North of state line push for Adams/Bond St. development. This is outsidee traffic patterns.

    Ask yourself, do you really want the trail to run alongside the petroleum terminals in Niles?

  5. Adam Bee said

    I think the best option is to add a short, wide multi-use path along the south edge of Cleveland, and then have people cross onto Kenilworth.

    Once onto Kenilworth it’s all good up to Darden, so then the improvements you mentioned (lanes on Laurel and a path through the county parks) will suffice.

    The more important project, IMHO, is to connect the LaSalle Trail south through the Catholic campuses to the East Bank trail. That would be fantastic.

  6. Bill Wasierski said

    Continuing the LaSalle trail until it connects to the Riverside trail along the South side of Cleveland would provide a better solution. Crossing Cleveland at Kenilworth would be difficult and promote risky crossing.

    On the South side of the trail connecting into the campus is necessary to promote ND riders to become part of the community.

    It is a welcome sight to see the new sidewalks along Michigan. They are still to close to the street, and likely to attract gravel and remains of Michigan Ave during the winter. Don’t ever count on our illustrious city leaders to clean off the sidewalks until ND football is imminent.

    More importantly the smart move would to provide connection to ND along Juniper up to Auten. It is critcal to begin tying in the Granger area towards campus and the city. Juniper is once again wide and flat for accomodating bike lanes. The only issue is the tightening at the Interstate. With a little work they could provide a walkway up and behind the bridge columns so a rider/pedestrian avoids the traffic. Just south of the interstate overpass the ND paths can take over.

    I would love a city with independent bike trails but the sad reality is that there is no money for most of the work. Therefore, one must look for common sense cheaper solutions that at least seperate the riders from traffic. Anything is better than nothing.

  7. Adam Bee said

    The idea to connect LaSalle to Riverside along the south side of Cleveland had never occurred to me, but it makes some sense. It’s only about .95 miles between the two right now, although I’m not sure how they’d cross the river.

    How much would it cost to put in a light at Kenilworth? It could be user-activated so as to only be red when peds or bikers are crossing.

    FWIW, I take a left from Kenilworth on nearly all the rides I do. But I can see why the average path user (5-years-old and wobbly) might not be up for that kind of foolishness.

    I also ride Juniper from ND to Auten on most rides, and it’s generally smooth sailing except for rush hour. Of course a path would be great, but the worst part of any route to Granger is the stuff to the northeast of Auten and Juniper. Auten, Ironwood, and Adams are all crappy.

    I still believe the best way to Granger is Redfield. It’s a couple more miles north than most people would want, but it’s smooth and with long sightlines. It’s not the greatest route imaginable, but IMO it sets the bar for any alternative.

    As far as the south connection to LaSalle Trail, it’s really almost there except for .19 miles of dirt road with KEEP OUT signs:

    Sure, that would route all the bike traffic through St Joe HS, Holy Cross, ND’s campus, and the University Village grad student housing, but the upside is that it’s all built and that would just mean more connectivity for the folks who live, study, and work there!

  8. Bill Wasierski said

    Good connection into ranger is critical. This is where a tremendous number of riders could be picked up, if only it were safer.

    Much like Indy with their I-465 loop, one of he best concepts would be for development of an outer loop with spokes coming into the city. Since I know the North side I would envision Auten/Adams as the best possible solution for the East/West. For North/South Iwould look to Juniper/Riverside.

    I read the minutes from the meeting on the LaSalle trail. Still don’t agree due to cost. A lot of bridging would be necessary to prevent safety problems using the existing route planned. Plus goinginto MI there are just as many problem crossing. Way to much money for a community that is all but broke. Just spanning Cleveland is looking to cost over $1M, with no additional pavement laid.

    Have ridden the Laurel/Adam/Bond route a number of times, find it quite pleasant. Look at all parks along the way. This could be done for way less than continuing the LaSalle trail.

    As for the .95 mile to hook LaSalle trail into Riverside on South side of Cleveland. When the Cleveland bridge is redecked they could readily add trussing welded onto the North span for a wide 10 foot bike lane. This would bring everyone towards the Riverside trail and away from traffic.

    A pedestrian crossing at Kenilworthlooks risky because there is no line of sight around the corners. Way to much fast paced traffic on Cleveland. This is an area to best route riders away from.

  9. Adam Bee said

    I certainly agree that a route to and from Granger must be one of the overall goals for continued support of bike infrastructure and continued growth in bike commuting. A lane on Adams/Ironwood/Auten/Granger would get people right to ND and downtown South Bend, and there’s no parking on any of those roads to worry about!

  10. Bill Wasierski said

    Going back to the original discussion of the LaSalle Trail. How do I become involved in the discussion within the bike coalition? While I agree with many Rails to Trails projects as they create worthwhile routes for commuters and families, I still don’t agree in this instance. To complete a route to St. Pats requires 1 mile and a traffic signal from the Riverside Trail on Laurel. I would like to understand the true purpose of the LaSalle Trail. A connection to Niles with prohibitive costs will never be completed. Unless this is completely funded through a federal grant, the local governments cannot afford it. To many riders for too many years will be at risk waiting for something to be built. Look at what can be done today and focus on those upgrades.

    Plus if the trail were completed linking the route into the parks West of the route still would need to completed. There has to be simpler less costly solutions that can be completed near term. The true value of any route is its actual existence, not lines on a map.

  11. Paul Taylor said

    Bill. Have you seen the South Bend Bicycle Network plan? Take a look at .

    Also, in looking back through this thread, I can see that a significant bit of information has not been mentioned: the St. Joseph County Parks already owns the proposed trail property from Cleveland Rd. to the Michigan Line. They acquired it some years ago.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of retrofitting bike lanes into existing streets/roads. This often involves not only making the roadway wider, but buying right-of-way from each property owner, and in many cases, moving utility easements and utility lines.

    Sadly, Granger is an island unto itself, with no connectivity to either South Bend or Mishawaka. (And in my opinion little or no presence in any civic planning process). As the Granger Paths folks will attest, kids in that area can’t even walk to school or the library. Check out

    Bill, I would like to discuss this with you off-line. Please e-mail me at

  12. Adam B said

    Yes, I agree. Unless there is some funding pot that can only be used for this and nothing else, it seems like the money could improve the “bikeability” of Michiana so much more if it were used elsewhere.

    Even if we’re confined to looking at the LaSalle Trail, the best connections for that are going south!

    All it would take is just: 1. Improving the connection through to ND’s University Village, which then leads through campus, and 2. Connecting campus with the East Bank and Riverside trails.

    Really, I don’t think an at-grade crossing of Cleveland is too terrible at Kenilworth. At least it’s on the same level with the crossing of SR 23 on Twyckenham’s path/lane. Putting in a user-activated stoplight at both locations seems like it should take care of everything.

    Then, all you’d have to do to finish off LaSalle on the north end is put in 30 yards of 5′ wide asphalt behind dividers on the south side of Cleveland to hook it up to Kenilworth. Done!

    Really, though, I wonder what was going through ppl’s heads when they put in the existing stretches of the LaSalle trail. It has so many blind street crossings that I feel much safer taking the long way around on McCombs.

  13. Adam Bee said

    Whoops now I see Paul’s comment. If SJC already owns the land that makes a trail considerably cheaper.

    Cleveland isn’t a state road– could a traffic signal work there? It seems the overpass is the biggest remaining expense.

    In my experience overpasses are usually too much hassle given the perceived risk, so most people (including families) ignore them and just cross at grade– see the crossing of Chapin south of Western.

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