By SANDY O’BRIEN
Dunelands Sierra Club
Members of the Dunelands Sierra Club dispute the Northwest Indiana Forum’s
claim that environmentalists support the commuter rail extensions. On the
contrary, we are concerned that the South Shore commuter rail extensions will
lead to more sprawl.
It makes no sense to continue auto-dependent sprawl development when oil
supplies are diminishing, and climate change will soon force mandatory
reductions in fossil fuel use.
Population, race, poverty, school, and job location trends indicate that the
region is both dysfunctional and inefficient: anyone can view these data at
Sprawl in the green fields has drained resources away from the older urban
Decades of what has been termed “the twin engines of race and sprawl” by
David Rusk, the respected urban policy specialist, must be reversed.
Good public policy and investments should aim to bring the region together
for a sustainable future of less energy use, a greener footprint, better
education and good quality of life for all citizens.
We see the Northwest Indiana Forum, a powerful green field development lobby,
pushing this “green washed” publicly funded commuter rail extension for its
The $30 million/year rail project funding plan includes enough money (page
25, RDA Plan II) for a south Lake County convention center, for the Olympics.
Though Forum support for the Compact to protect Lake Michigan water is good,
its consistent opposition to stricter pollution limits for industry isn’t.
We challenge the Forum to move from “green wash” to really green.
The Forum could use its clout to lead Indiana up from 49th place on Forbes’
greenest state list.
The Forum could support a state Renewable Electricity Standard, mercury and
other pollutant reductions, green development, and education excellence in
inner cities, and end up with what it is supposedly looking for, a better
Dunelands members very much prefer the Marquette Greenway Plan to revitalize
Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago as the best plan for the environment, and the
It is a great alternative to sprawl in the green fields, which works for cars
but not for convenient, energy efficient mass transit.
Return on public investment for the Marquette Plan is much greater than for
commuter rail extension. Its job outlook is 39,000 versus only 26,000 for
commuter rail by 2040.
And this is for a fraction of the local cost, $30.1 to 82.5 million versus
$570.1 million, plus the rail project also requires a locally funded
operating subsidy of $12.1 million/year. www.in.gov/rda/
Building only the Valparaiso leg might be justifiable because it supports
south Hammond, Munster and other first ring suburbs on the way. Ending this
leg in Merrillville would limit green field development and save about half
the $1.05 billion cost of the rail project.
Equity truly requires equal funding for the Marquette Plan and the RBA
(regional buses) and no disinvestment in the existing South Shore line.
In a similar way, common sense demands a tight, enforceable land use plan to
prevent green field development, except transit oriented development around
the stations, if the full rail extensions are built.