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Dunes leader plugs bridge

– The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s leader is pitching an idea for a suspension bridge to carry hikers and bikers over several highways.

Park Superintendent Constantine Dillon said he’s had informal discussions with area leaders about construction of a pedestrian bridge spanning U.S. 20, Indiana 249 and Burns Ditch in Portage. Dillon told the Times of Munster that he was proposing a span similar to the 3,000-foot bridge over the Missouri River at Omaha, Neb., which connects a network of trails and parks.

“This is a stunning bridge that can become an icon of northwest Indiana, a symbol of how northwest Indiana views its lakefront,” Dillon said. “What a perfect metaphor of the blending of nature and steel.”

Regional Development Authority President Bill Hanna said he supported the idea and the bridge could improve use of the Lake Michigan shore area. “If you are in Portage, you are a lakefront community, but folks who don’t see the lake don’t always think of it that way,” Hanna said. “Connectivity is the way to do that.”

But A.J. Monroe, director of public works for Portage, said the proposed bridge would need to be at least 3 miles long, five times as long as the Missouri River bridge that cost $22 million to build when it opened in 2008. The money could be better spent on other projects, Monroe said.