On the same day oral arguments were given in the appeal of Porter County vs.
the Northwest Indiana Regional Authority, (See related story.) the RDA Board
of Directors held its annual meeting Thursday in Indianapolis.
The event featured local and state officials who uniformly praised the
organization for its economic development work in the region, as well as
presentations from the Regional Bus Authority (RBA) and the Gary/Chicago
International Airport detailing their progress in accomplishing long-term
goals supported by the RDA.
A press release submitted to the Chesterton Tribune today listed
highlights from the meeting.
The Board welcomed two new members: Ed Glover, representing East Chicago,
and Jeff Good, representing Porter County.
“The addition of these two new members is a very positive step,” said Board
Chairman Leigh Morris. “It is great to have East Chicago represented by Ed
Glover, and Jeff Good brings an important perspective to the Board and
renews the participation of Porter County in the RDA.”
In addition to swearing in its newest members, the Board also unanimously
reappointed Bill Joiner as Treasurer, and named Harley Snyder its new Vice
In a special presentation to the Board, Indiana Attorney General Greg
Zoeller said, “I remember the creation of the RDA in 2005, and at its
creation there were some very high hopes, but also some unspoken fears.”
Today, those hopes are well on their way to being fulfilled, he continued,
while the fears have proven groundless.
“Now, other regions of the state, in Fort Wayne and in southern Indiana, are
looking at the RDA as a model for organizations of their own,” he noted.
“Because of its openness, its transparency and its accountability, the RDA
had been a model of good government,” Zoeller said the statement.
Because of that track record, the Attorney General made a bold proposal to
the board that the RDA consider serving as a trustee over casino revenue
intended for economic development in East Chicago. (See related story.) More
regarding the proposal, which the RDA Board of Directors promised to take
under consideration is at: http://www.in.gov/portal/news_events/65955.htm
Reports presented to the board by the Mayors of Hammond, Whiting and East
Chicago and officials from the Regional Bus Authority and Gary/Chicago
International Airport illustrated how the RDA’s efforts are connecting the
region and creating opportunities for growth. Hammond Mayor Thomas M.
McDermott, Jr. pointed to the George Lake Trail Pedestrian Bridge in
Forsythe Park which will link his city with neighboring Whiting.
“We are bringing two communities together with a bridge, and I think that
really speaks to what the RDA is all about,” McDermott said.
Similarly, work by the RBA has expanded the ability of residents to move
around the region, and they are taking advantage of it. RBA Executive
Director Tim Brown noted that bus ridership in Hammond rose from 13,000 to
21,000 between July of 2010 and the end of the year. He credits seven public
input sessions which allowed the RBA to better tailor bus routes, for the
dramatic increase in ridership.
In 2010, the RBA also created a new bus line from Dyer into downtown Chicago
to serve the growing commuter population. The existing ChicaGo Dash bus
service from Valparaiso is quickly exceeding expectations, he noted, with
daily ridership surpassing 100 daily in 2010, a year ahead of schedule.
Steven Landry, Interim Director of the Gary/Chicago International Airport,
updated the Board on the progress of the airport’s Runway Extension Program
and said that the project was on schedule to meet Chairman Leigh Morris
promise that “dirt will fly by the 4th of July” in 2011.
More than $29 million has been spent so far to prepare for the extension,
and the Airport has secured or been pledged enough funds to complete the
estimated $129.7 million project.