RDA offers $80M for South Shore - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

RDA offers $80M for South Shore

Posted: Updated:
LAKE COUNTY, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The Regional Development Authority approved a commitment of $8 million annually for at least 10 years toward the proposed South Shore West Lake Corridor rail extension at its Friday board meeting.

The money, which will come from the RDA's $27.5 million annual budget, marks another step in drumming up local matching funds for at least half the cost of the project, which is estimated at $571 million. Munster recently voted to dedicate 34 percent of its annual share of the County Economic Development Income Tax monies — estimated at $279,623 — and Lake County officials have discussed an annual commitment of $2 million.

Board president Donald Fesko said the commitments leave about $5.7 million that officials hope to cobble together by March 31, which is the final day to apply for federal matching funds.

The eight-mile extension would connect Munster and Dyer to the existing line, with possible future expansion into Lowell and Valparaiso.

In addition, the RDA board approved a $1.1 million grant to the Northwest Indiana Commuter Transportation District for an environmental impact study that must be completed prior to construction. NICTD will provide $1.9 million of its own funds for the study. The RDA also commissioned a $500,000 study to examine the impact of bikes on trains.

RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said discussions are still ongoing with U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, county and local officials, and state legislators "to get across the finish line."

Visclosky has advocated for the project for years, releasing a video about it on Wednesday. He and other officials argue that the increased access to public transit would aid residents who commute to jobs in Chicago and encourage them to live and spend money in Northwest Indiana. An economic impact study estimated that the annual commuter income generated by the West Lake Corridor is $147.3 million, a 62 percent increase over the $237.5 million that the South Shore line commuters now bring back to Northwest Indiana.

"I appreciate the commitment made today by the Regional Development Authority in support of this transformational opportunity for Northwest Indiana," Visclosky said in a statement. "Their foresight to connect our great region to the Chicago economy and to invest in our region's future generations is commendable."

Hanna said the combination of new Lake County income tax revenues and desire from local leaders has spurred the new effort.

"It's a real opportunity to build without raising any new taxes, which is unprecedented," Hanna said.

"No one's tax bill is going to go up to build the train. Everyone is looking at ways to fund the project out of existing revenues."

Greater Northwest Indiana Association of Realtors 2014 president-elect Joe Wszolek said the initial costs are significant, but the investment is a good one for Northwest Indiana.

"Many naysayers talk of initial costs, but we answer with the benefits expansion will bring," Wszolek said. "It's no different than the investments our parents and grandparents made in the building of local and national roads. It will infuse millions into the local economy and new jobs generate local income tax revenues."

Board member Harley Snyder said the move is a "watershed moment for Northwest Indiana."

"(Visclosky's) video certainly tells the story that we on the surface transportation group have been discovering and studying for the past year and a half," Snyder said.

The RDA is now investigating the cost of operations on the West Lake Corridor since federal funding requires that a project have a source of operational funding. Under Senate Bill 367, the RDA would receive an additional $4 million annually from casino revenues. If approved, the money will be placed in escrow to establish an operating fund.

If the project isn't delayed, construction would start in 2020, with trains running by 2022. The West Lake Corridor will carry around 5,600 riders when finished — a 40 percent increase in ridership over the current levels, according to RDA figures.

In other board moves, the RDA awarded the trauma center/academic medical center feasibility study to Indianapolis-based accounting firm Katz, Sapper & Miller.

Follow Us!

Share Your Photos & Video

Powered by WorldNow

25 FOX Drive
Dedham, MA 02026

Phone (781) 467-2525

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices