Friday of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s 20-year
strategic business plan for the South Shore left one key aspect still
unresolved: how will it be financed?
despite a pricetag that exceeds $1 billion in investments, the transit
improvements outlined are necessary to increase ridership, improve service,
promote economic development and enhance quality of life.
It will be
imperative, they stressed, to line up funding commitments from several
sources to supplement federal grants.
Dhadwal of consultant JRS Corporation in Chicago, which produced the 20-year
study, said there can be a different set of funding and financing for each
project but within the next 18 months money needs to be lined up so federal
grant applications can advance.
After the meeting
Kenneth Kinney of URS said there needs to be a sense of urgency now to get
the conversation started for specific projects. “We have to make substantial
progress. Do we have to have everything wrapped up, no".
NICTD board member
and Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay said look to Indianapolis. “This
is a northern Indiana effort but it certainly has benefits throughout the
state. We need to drive that point home.” South Shore commuters pay sales,
income and other Hoosier taxes, he noted.
Porter County has
not made any funding commitments. Commissioner John Evans, a NICTD board
member, said after Friday’s meeting that the county pays $3.5 million a year
to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority so it’s already
contributing through that assessment.
Funding for South
Shore expansion and upgrades needs to be more of a regional effort coming
from the RDA, whether through a regional tax or other avenue, and the State
of Indiana really has to step up, said Evans.
NICTD member Sylvia
Graham of the Porter County Council was absent.
NICTD board, RDA executive director Bill Hanna said the RDA will continue to
partner with NICTD because while investment in road infrastructure doesn’t
guarantee a return, South Shore commuters who bring back salaries in excess
of $80,000 a year from Chicago spend that money here where they live.
Hanna said the RDA
is enthusiastic about transit-oriented development near South Shore stations
to encourage economic growth and job creation. Lake County Council member
Christine Cid of NICTD said private-sector funding for TOD partnerships
should be encouraged.
TOD projects can
cluster residential, retail, restaurant and service uses around South Shore
stations and expand the market for them beyond just commuters.
Selling it to the
Decker, a LaPorte County Commissioner, said the district has to explain to
the public what the 20-year plan proposes and justify what the South Shore
A key 20-year plan
component is the $571 million West Lake expansion of passenger service from
Hammond to Dyer in south Lake County with trains beginning to run in late
2022 and daily ridership eventually projected to be 5,600 people.
Kinney said if
there’s not a solid financial plan accompanying a West Lake request for
federal new-starts funding, the application likely won’t even be reviewed.
The strategic plan
also proposes capital improvements for new/existing South Shore stations.
These include a $7 million high-boarding platform at the Portage/Ogden Dunes
station in Porter County; a $109 million track realignment and station
construction in Michigan City; a $15 million track realignment at the South
Bend Regional Airport; and $52 million for a new Gary station near
Interstate-65 or $38 million in upgrades to the existing Gary Metro and
An additional $421
million represents needed general capital improvements to keep the South
Shore Line operating safely and efficiently, according to URS.
That spending would
include $250 million for new train cars, $98 million to double-track the
railroad between Gary and Michigan City where single track exists now, $30
million to build a second NICTD track into its platforms at Millennium
Station in downtown Chicago, and $43 million to implement the federally
mandated positive train control GPS-based safety system.
There’s also $401
million for required future South Shore maintenance such as bridge
replacement, catenary renewal and other projects needed to keep the
passenger line operating in good repair.
Dhadwal, “All projects may feel daunting, but it’s important to consider
this is not out of the realm of reasonableness when you look at what other
regions of the country are pursuing for their infrastructure.” She noted
pushing projects into the future will only increase their cost.
In other business
Friday, NICTD marketing director John Parsons reported an encouraging 13.7
percent jump in average weekend ridership last month compared to April 2013.
Total April passengers also increased by 2.2 percent, as did on-time
performance over April last year.
manager Gerald Hanas announced the district is one of 19 winners in Indiana
of a certificate of achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. CFO
Keith Casey thanked his staff and said a climate of honesty and integrity is
fostered at NICTD.
Four bids were
accepted, all the lowest qualified bid of those submitted. Approved were M.J.
Electric, LLC of Crown Point at $1,487,900 for traction power rehabilitation
for the Wickliffe substation in Porter County; Happs Inc. of Chicago Heights
IL at $186,900 for used rail tie plates; L.B. Foster Co. of Pittsburgh PA at
$558,600 for new rail; and Railworks Track Services Inc. of Minooka IL at
$223,080 for new rail.
The Railworks bid
was substantially lower than the other two submitted but NICTD staff said
they were satisfied the proposal was responsible and responsive.
Also Friday, NICTD
directors approved a resolution that extends until year’s end its employment
agreement with Hanas, who earlier had announced his planned retirement.