Chesterton Tribune



Bait and switch? South County RR plan morphs into something much bigger

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The planners behind the proposed Great Lakes Basin Railroad which would cross in the southern half of Porter County have now added a new Toll Road to the proposal, creating a 2,000-foot wide transportation corridor.

The announcement made a couple of weeks ago by Great Lakes Basin Transportation chairman Frank Patton came as a surprise to the Porter County Board of Commissioners which on Tuesday decided to send a letter to the Surface Transportation Board asking it to schedule more meetings for the public to exercise its right to express views.

“We find this bait-and-switch tactic very troubling,” said Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, reading the letter into the meeting minutes.

In April 2016, after the County Plan Commission office received notice from the STB that an environmental impact study of the GLBR line was being commissioned, the Commissioners passed a resolution denouncing the estimated $8 billion project, stating that there would be no beneficial impact to Porter County. They worked with local state officials to get the STB to schedule public scoping meetings in Porter County for the study.

Starting from the west, the proposed line in Porter County would enter just north of Hebron and then move through Boone, Porter, Morgan and Washington townships, and cross near the southern edge of Jackson Twp. as it goes east into LaPorte County.

The Toll Road component is said to follow the same route and, according to a statement by Patton, would replace the planned Illiana Tollway to mitigate traffic around Chicago.

Blaney said a 2,000-foot transportation corridor is “drastically different” than a 200-foot rail corridor and residents were not given the information about the Toll Road at the scoping meetings last year.

“We find this toll road addition to the plan after the environmental impact meetings were completed dubious at best,” the letter said. “The Porter County Board of Commissioners ask that public meetings be held again to allow residents to comment on the total plan project.”

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, concurred that by changing the proposal, the public vetting process should start anew. “My opinion is they should start back at square A. It changes everything. It’s a total bait and switch.”

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said the Commissioners have been following the GLBR’s progress “when this thing just sort of came out of nowhere” and now it’s getting closer to the final plan. “The County had looked at how this would affect its roadways and drainage but not with the concept of a toll road,” he said.

“We need to have the right to go back and look at this all over again,” Good said.

The GLBR project is said to be funded with money from private sources. It would run from Milton, Wis. to Kingsbury, Ind. near LaPorte while staying a considerable distance from the heart of Chicago.



Posted 5/18/2017





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