Chesterton Tribune



Indiana and Illinois senators not happy with DOT NIRPC merger plan

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Indiana’s two U.S. senators and Illinois’ are all urging the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to extend by at least 60 days the comment period on a proposed rule change which could force the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to merge with its counterpart in Illinois, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

Such a merger, the senators warn, could create bureaucratic quagmires in the regional transportation planning and funding process and be far worse a cure than whatever illness the rule change is intended to fix.

In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and dated Aug. 16, U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. request the 60-day extension, on the ground that “it is clear that our constituent stakeholders need more time to weigh in with substantive comments.”

“We are concerned the current proposed rule would fundamentally change the long-established cooperative working relationships between (municipal planning organizations) in our states and set back efforts to successfully coordinate transportation planning and investments in our region,” the four senators state in the letter.

CMAP and NIRPC “currently sit on each other’s transportation committees, their staffs regularly attend meetings, and their executive directors meet quarterly,” they note.

“Instead of improving coordination, our (municipal planning organizations) and state departments of transportation have expressed serious concerns that the proposed rule may in fact do the opposite, risking the cooperative and effective relationships our (municipal planning organizations) already enjoy and creating unintended difficulties for their governance structure, their comprehensive planning development, and the funding and selection of transportation projects in Illinois and Indiana,” they add.

“The proposed rule presents significant risks for our constituents and the 60-day comment period is not sufficient for all parties to respond meaningfully in this important rulemaking,” the senators conclude their letter.

Chesterton Town Council Member Jim Ton, R-1st, who currently chairs the NIRPC Executive Committee, has written his own letter of protest to DOT, and at the council’s last meeting expressed the fear that a merger would inevitably lead to imbalances in the federal funding of local projects.



Posted 9/1/2016




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