The RDA was created to partner with others in the “heavy lifting” required to develop the infrastructure that will make Northwest Indiana economically vibrant. The legislation that created the RDA directs us to focus on our region’s collective assets. These regional assets are interrelated as the basic building blocks of a local economy that must become globally competitive.
The RDA has committed $8 million annually in funds to match local contributions to rail expansion in Northwest Indiana. We are committed to construction of the West Lake Corridor rail line. Phase 1 of this project, which would extend South Shore commuter rail service from Hammond to the Munster area, has been estimated at $816 million. The federal government is expected to cover half the cost if a local match can be generated.
Construction of Phase 1 would create an estimated 5,000 jobs. If completed by 2022, the West Lake Corridor trains are projected to have a ridership of more than 5,000 within ten years. These riders would import approximately $147 million in salaries from Chicago each year, generating economic growth in Northwest Indiana and increased tax revenues for the state. Building the train will also reduce congestion, improve air quality and, combined with Indiana’s low tax rates, make the region extremely attractive to people working in Chicago.
Phase 2 of the project will fully double track the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City, significantly reducing travel times to and from downtown Chicago. Cost is cuttently estimated at $396 million and is also eligible for a 50% federal match.
The RDA continues to explore a regional solution for bus transit in northwest Indiana. This includes the development of business and capital plans to build and maintain a system that serves all of Northwest Indiana. Like rail expansion, a strong system will help to create jobs, improve quality of life, provide environmental benefits, and reduce congestion on northwest Indiana’s already crowded roads.
The RDA will work to ensure that transit-oriented development in Northwest Indiana maximizes all of the aforementioned benefits by focusing its transit-oriented development (TOD) efforts on making it easier for Hoosiers to get to Chicago, and making Indiana communities more attractive to people in Illinois.
The West Lake Corridor will service growing Northwest Indiana communities in the central and southern parts of the region. Along the new line, the RDA will provide funding for planning and development to help build TOD right “from the ground up.” The strategy builds upon two facts:
- The Illinois suburbs with rail service are growing and attract more jobs than Hoosier towns that are equidistant from Chicago.
- Young people prefer more urban, walkable environments than traditional suburbs.
As the environmental work for the West Lake expansion is on-going, the RDA will use the grant funding in conjunction with local redevelopment agencies to re-develop land adjacent to and near existing NICTD stations. The redeveloped land will be available for residential, mixed-use and commercial development.
As the RDA helps communities served by NICTD create more attractive, secure neighborhoods, it enables these communities to compete for the young people that work in Chicago, and to make themselves more attractive for businesses and people who will work in Indiana.
Finally, TOD will facilitate business attraction in Northwest Indiana. The RDA has demonstrated that Illinois businesses near the Indiana state border can be attracted to Indiana with targeted efforts. Given greater transit options, more of these businesses can relocate without disrupting their existing work force. Not only does this add jobs and investment in Indiana, but over time it will lead to population growth as people in Illinois move to Indiana to be closer to work.
Gary Chicago International Airport
The Regional Development Authority has provided $50 million for the work at airport; therefore, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that the project is carried through to completion. To accomplish this, the RDA will maintain its close engagement with the Gary Chicago International Airport Board of Directors via its existing working group.
The RDA will further promote increased airport usage as outlined in the strategic business plan developed for the airport by Landrum & Brown.
The RDA will work with state lawmakers and the Indiana Department of Transportation to improve access to the Airport.
The RDA will work closely with elected officials in Gary to ensure that any concerns they have regarding the airport, its future development, management, or other issues are addressed in a complete and timely fashion. The administration in Gary has committed to completing this project so the city can reap the economic rewards of an active, vital airport. The RDA is grateful for their close cooperation and intends to continue to build its relationship with the city in order to create a foundation for the long-term success of the airport.
The RDA will continue to monitor the status of unfinished projects tied to the Marquette Plan to ensure that they are carried through to completion and that the work being done is conducted by Indiana-based companies whenever possible. The RDA will also continue to document the return on investment of these projects.
To build on the shoreline transformation currently underway, the RDA will work with local community leaders to secure a defined economic development/corridor plan for each community. This will guide the community as it seeks to exploit its new and improved resources.
The RDA will also work with local leaders to ensure that defined and fully funded operations and maintenance plans to support the improvements are developed and implemented.
The RDA will continue to work with our partners at the local, State and Federal level to support job creation in Northwest Indiana.
The RDA will continue its overall communications to raise awareness of the RDA’s positive economic impact on state, regional and local levels and to garner active support on RDA initiatives through key constituencies and public involvement
The RDA will increase dialogue and raise awareness at the Federal and State Government levels about the RDA’s partnership role as a financial and intergovernmental intermediary on projects of regional significance in order to diversify project revenue using RDA funds as local match and increase the ratio of financial leverage from public sector investment.
We will also increase dialogue and raise awareness with private sector investors and non-governmental entities, such as major foundations, about the RDA’s role in funding economic development projects that will generate high rates of return on investment and will result in diversifying the tax base and enhancing quality of life in Northwest Indiana.