Northwest Indiana Revamps Strategic Plan

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(file photo courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana) (file photo courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana)

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has released a new comprehensive strategic plan. The update comes as part of the Indiana General Assembly's approval last year of $180 million for the West Lake expansion of the South Shore commuter rail line.

RDA Chief Executive Officer Bill Hannah says the update lays out a road map for the rail expansion and other transit planning "that will make northwest Indiana the first choice in suburban Chicago for new and existing residents" as well as a top choice for businesses looking to locate or expand. 

The plan now includes updated details of the costs, benefits and impacts of commuter rail expansion in the region. It says construction of the West Lake Corridor and upgrading the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City will support about 2,000 construction jobs between 2018-2022, as well as supporting about 5,700 permanent jobs in Lake and Porter counties by 2046.

The RDA expects the corridor and the existing line improvements to increase South Shore daily ridership from about 14,500 to more than 24,000.. The project is also projected to generate an additional $435 million in local property tax revenues for Gary, Portage, Hammond, Munster, Dyer, East Chicago, Miller and Ogden Dunes between 2018-2039.

Hanna says the RDA's next step is "visiting all of our public, private and nonprofit partners" and pledging support and resources to the plan.

The board has also approved funding for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to enter the project development phase of the West Lake Corridor expansion project estimated at $15 million to $20 million over the next 12 to 18 months. It also reallocated $2.5 million set to incentivize a company considering Hobart for a site location. The money will now be used for street improvements.

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