Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County RDC endorses high speed rail concept

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Redevelopment Commission Thursday gave the City of Valparaiso its blessing to efforts to bring a high-speed passenger rail service to Porter County.

RDC member and County Plan Commission Director Robert Thompson said the City is not asking for the County RDC to help with funding for an environmental impact study, which would be required before implementation of the rail can begin, but for a word of endorsement so they can say the Commission supports the project

Thompson said members of the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) had asked the Porter County Council in July to consider giving $20,000 in public funds to fulfill its share needed for the impact study, but were turned down due to a lack of available funds.

NIPRA officials had said the rail system would be constructed on the existing Chicago, Ft. Wayne Eastern Line, on a 300-mile track with Chicago and Columbus, Ohio as its end points, traveling at speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

Plans show the line would have a stop in Valparaiso and move through the county, south of Duneland. Valparaiso City Government has committed $50,000 towards’ Porter County’s share of $70,000.

It would be a 40 minute ride from Valparaiso to Chicago and 3 hours and 20 minutes to Columbus, the NIPRA said.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Thompson said.

The RDC voted 3-0 to send their approval to Valparaiso City Administrator Bill Oeding. Voting were President Ric Frataccia, Vice-President David Burrus and Thompson. Absent from the meeting were members Jim Polarek and Jeremy Rivas.

Airport

In other business, Thompson said a joint group consisting of himself, Airport Director Kyle Kuebler and Valparaiso RDC members have started talking about rezoning areas around the Porter County Regional Airport.

The Airport Overlay District is within unincorporated Porter County and abuts the Valparaiso City limits. The area was initially eyed as the County’s first TIF district, but now collaboration is being sought with the city to decide what redevelopment methods can strengthen the airport most.

“It’s finally happening. I knew it would if we just waited long enough,” said Frataccia who earlier this year remarked the efforts were dragging on.

Outreach

Burrus pushed for the RDC to make an effort to communicate with municipalities throughout the county on ways to work together on projects. He advocated looking at models used by successful County RDCs to find “approaches that we can make progress with.”

“There has to be some kind of positive things we can do that goes beyond TIF districts,” said Burrus. Both Frataccia and Thompson agreed.

Frataccia said the RDC has to determine a structure it can operate on. “What is our target? Where are we going?” he said.

Hospital abatement funds

Also, County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the fund has been set up for the RDC to start collecting economic development fees from the Porter Regional Hospital’s abated taxes.

According to the abatement agreement between the County Council and the hospital, the hospital is to give the RDC 10 percent of the taxes abated each year with a maximum of $100,000.

Urbanik said that the Indiana Association of Counties informed the County Council earlier this week that in the state budget bill, for-profit hospitals will get a 50 percent tax break on real and personal property and named Porter Regional Hospital as one of the properties.

Thompson said he heard that State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is working to get the language, as the bill was originally intended to affect only two hospitals elsewhere.

Next meeting

The RDC, which now meets quarterly, will meet next on July 16.

 

 

Posted 4/17/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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