appreciate the commitment made today by the Regional Development Authority
in support of this transformational opportunity for Northwest Indiana.ÊTheir
foresight to connect our great region to the Chicago economy and to invest
in our region’s future generations is commendable,” said Congressman
“It’s important to note that no new taxes are being contemplated,” Hanna
added. “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.”
addition to dedicating a decade’s worth of matching funds, the RDA Board
approved a $1.1 million grant to the Northwest Indiana Commuter
Transportation District (NICTD) for an environmental impact study that must
be completed prior to construction of the West Lake Corridor. NICTD will
provide $1.9 million of its own funds for the study.
RDA is also looking ahead to the costs of operating trains on the West Lake
Corridor. Among the requirements for federal funding is 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, this
money will be placed in escrow to establish an operating fund for the West
West Lake Corridor is forecast to carry approximately 5,600 riders when
operational. This represents a 40 percent increase in ridership over the
commuters currently taking the South Shore train into Chicago. 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.
additional $147.3 million would generate an approximately $12 million
annually in new income taxes for the state. “Since this project will grow
state revenues, we believe it is in Indiana’s best interests to assist in
funding the project,” Hanna said.
Under the current proposed timetable, if funding can be secured, design and
engineering work would begin in 2018 and actual construction would start in
2020. Trains would be running on the West Lake Corridor in 2022.
Building the West Lake Corridor is critical for access to job opportunities
in Chicago. The lack of mass transit options in Northwest Indiana shows up
in Census data. According to the U.S. Census, between 29 percent and 40
percent of residents of Chicago collar counties commute into Cook County
(Chicago) for work. By contrast, only 20 percent of Lake County, Indiana
residents and just six percent of Porter County residents commute into
Chicago, despite similar distances from the city.
“There are literally millions of good-paying jobs in Chicago that Northwest
Indiana residents could pursue if we had better access to Chicago,” Hanna
said. “And there are people who would move here in a heartbeat if they had a
way to get to work.” The Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is a
tri-state regional economy of 9.5 million persons, 14 counties, and ranks as
the eighth-largest economy by GDP in the world. In terms of U.S. MSA’s, only
New York City and Los Angeles rank higher. There are 4.5 million jobs in the
Chicago MSA, and 2.1 million of those are located within Cook County alone.
And on average, jobs in Cook County pay about 40 percent more than the same
job in Northwest Indiana.
“When it comes to economic development, the West Lake Corridor is
low-hanging fruit,” he concluded. “It will create jobs here, give people
better access to jobs in Chicago, grow incomes and property values, and help
us stem the flow of talented young people leaving because of a lack of
opportunity. It’s a win for everyone.”