Federal, state and local officials levels have cut the ribbon on a $220 million project designed to improve more than 70 miles of the Indiana Toll Road, including over 50 bridges throughout seven counties. Completion of the 80/90 Push Project, which also involves redevelopment of eight travel plazas and installation of fiber optic cables for an Intelligent Travel System, attracted a bi-partisan group of leaders including U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The project was funded by the Granger-based Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., the private operator of the corridor.
The gathering also provided an opportunity for Chao, whose department handles a budget of more than $75 billion a year, to experience other major infrastructure projects awaiting potential federal funding like work to extend the West Lake Corridor of the South Shore Rail Line, double-tracking the line throughout northwest and northern Indiana and relocating the South Shore’s position at South Bend International Airport. Local and state funding has been lined up and officials are seeking approval of tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to move forward with the projects.
Though Chao would not comment on the progress of the funding, she did tell our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana "suffice it to say that the bipartisan nature and the public-private partnership aspects of any project would be ones that are important to us." Chao was joined by ITRCC Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Barr, Governor Eric Holcomb, Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Acting Administrator of Federal Highway Administration Brandye Hendrickson, Indiana Finance Authority Chair Micah Vincent, Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness, Representative Pete Visclosky (D-1) and Representative Jackie Walorski (R-2).
South Bend Regional Chamber President Jeff Rea, who was among several economic development officials from throughout northern Indiana in attendance, said "the South Shore Double Track project, the West Lake Corridor project, and the South Bend International Airport relocation project are all critical economic development efforts in Northwest and North Central Indiana. To better tie in to the third-largest economy in the world will help in our efforts to attract new business opportunities and new people who may be attracted to all the big city offers while at the same time capitalizing on all Indiana has to offer. To date, the projects have garnered broad, bi-partisan support at the State and Local levels and we appreciate Secretary Chao’s interest in the project as the Federal Government also is a critical partner."