RDA’s Bill Hanna, NICTD’s Mike Noland Talk Commuter Rail in NWI

112Last month, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority President and CEO Bill Hanna and Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District CEO & General Manager Michael Noland visited the Ideas in Motion Media studios to provide an update on the RDA’s major economic development projects.

The duo talked with IIMM Publisher Chris Mahlmann about not only the RDA’s West Lake Corridor, but also the proposed South Shore Rail Line double-tracking proposal designed to improve track reliability and all around travel time for commuters.

Michigan City was the city most cited as a potential winner when it comes to double tracking, with improvements putting “the city by the lake” right in the hour-travel-time “sweet zone” that many commuters are looking to stay within when commuting to and from downtown Chicago.

“We want a second lane so we can improve the service, reduce the travel times, and add more trains so we can have hour-long travel times (from Michigan City to Chicago),” explained Noland. “You’re right on Lake Michigan, you’ve got beautiful beaches, the zoo, a thriving downtown area that is developing today – when you add that to the mix, you’ll see Michigan City take off.”

Hanna talked about Portage, Ogden Dunes, and other areas he feels will benefit and grow because of an increased viability as a home for many looking to move into a Chicago suburb.

“The kind of folks who have discretionary income to spend in the businesses that are there now – everyone wins,” said Hanna. “Everybody wins on this – Miller, East Chicago, Hammond.”

Audio and video of their conversation can be found here. Check it out!

RDA Board Approves $6 Million Grant for Munster

RDA COO Sherri Ziller (second from left) outlines the Munster project for the RDA Board of Directors at today's Board meeting.

RDA COO Sherri Ziller (second from left) outlines the Munster project for the RDA Board of Directors at today’s Board meeting.

The Board of the Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today approved a $6 million matching grant for the 45th Street Realignment and Grade Separation Project in Munster.

The project, which will change the intersection of Calumet Avenue and East 45th Street to a single, four-legged intersection via a grade-separated structure at the crossing with the railroad tracks, is located approximately three miles northeast of the proposed Dyer/Munster West Lake commuter station, and just over two miles southeast of the proposed Ridge Road and Manor Drive station location.

“Calumet Avenue will be a primary access route to both stations and will be closely linked to transit-oriented development opportunities within the corridor,” noted RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna. “It will relieve traffic congestion along the corridor and enhance access to the proposed West Lake Stations, increasing the potential for transit-oriented development.”

This grant builds upon $28.6 million in matching funds provided by local and state sources. The RDA’s $6 million will be combined with $10 million from Munster, up to $9 million from the State of Indiana and $9.6 million from the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC). The total cost of the project is $34.6 million.

Expanded Gary Airport Runway Opens for Business

The Gary/Chicago International Airport celebrate the grand opening of its new 8,900-foot runway on July 10. The expanded runway is the centerpiece of more than $170 million in improvements that are already drawing new business to the airport and the surrounding area.

What do the improvements mean for the City of Gary and for Northwest Indiana? We asked a number of those attending the opening ceremony for their thoughs, which you can see here:

For more, check out remarks by U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna here.

Northwest Indiana Makes its Pitch for Regional Cities Investment

lakeshore2Officials from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) got a tour of Northwest Indiana yesterday in advance of the region’s application for Regional Cities funding. Northwest Indiana is competing with other cities and counties around the state for $84 million in Regional Cities grants that IEDC will distribute to winning communities. The goal of the Regional Cities program is to build healthy, vibrant communities that attract and retain talent in Indiana.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District are submitting a proposal for $42 million from the Regional Cities program that would support rail improvements, service upgrades and transit-oriented development (TOD) along the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City.

The heart of the proposal involves fully double-tracking the South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City. Currently, the South Shore line is double-tracked from Chicago to Tennessee Street in Gary. For 17.2 of the 25.9 miles from there to Michigan City, the South Shore is a single-track railroad. Constructing a continuous double track would increase scheduling flexibility, improve reliability, expand maintenance windows and eliminate the single point of failure that exists with single track operation.

Double-tracking would greatly reduce commuting times to and from Chicago and make cities and towns along the line much more attractive for transit-oriented development. Encouraging TOD around the South Shore line that compliments existing neighborhoods can enhance ridership, access to job markets and help the region in economic growth.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), the Northwest Indiana Forum and One Region are among those supporting the application. Ty Warner, Executive Director of NIRPC and Heather Ennis, President and CEO of the Forum, were among those joining RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna, NICTD General Manager Mike Noland and NIPSCO Economic Development Director Don Babcock in guiding the IEDC delegation around Northwest Indiana.

Regional Cities representatives included Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith, IEDC President Jim Schellinger and Vice President for Policy and Strategic Initiatives Eric Shields. Also along for the day was Joel Gorelick, former Peoples Bank President and CAO, and a member of the committee which will choose the winning regions in the Regional Cities competition. You can see photos of the tour here.

We believe our inclusive, collaborative proposal will benefit four counties – Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph – with a combined population of more than 1 million by encouraging private investment in transit-oriented development, attracting new residents and businesses, creating new jobs in Indiana and offering increased access to high-paying careers in Chicago. Fully double-tracking the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City will reduce transit times to and from Chicago, enable the South Shore to offer increased service, and improve on-time performance and customer satisfaction. Quick, reliable and frequent access to the third-largest metro economy in the country will directly answer the Regional Cities challenge for plans that create jobs, encourage economic development and improve quality of place.

RDA Board Gives Green Light to Porter County Airport Grant

portrer county airportThe Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority today approved a $317,197 grant to the Porter County Regional Municipal Airport that will provide matching funds for $12.6 million in runway and equipment improvements.

The Board’s approval is contingent upon Porter County authorizing a like amount as part of a package of local and state matching funds. The $317,197 each from the RDA and Porter County would be combined with $634,394 in state funding to provide a 10% local match to access $11.4 million in federal funds.

The total $12.6 million from this combination would be used for rehabilitation and reconstruction on runway 9-27, which is in danger of falling below minimum service levels, and to complete a High Intensity Runway Lighting Rehabilitation project which would replace lighting components that are beyond their service lifetime.

“Just like the airport in Gary, the Porter County airport is a significant driver of regional economic activity,” said RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna. “A 2012 estimate put its economic impact at more than $17 million annually. This grant is a small but vital piece to access federal funding for urgently needed repairs and upgrades.”
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RDA Provides $3.5 Million to Bring 500 New Jobs to NWI

Titan (2)Hoist Liftruck Mfg., Inc., a manufacturer of high-capacity material handling equipment, announced plans today to expand its manufacturing operations into East Chicago, creating up to 500 new jobs in Indiana by 2022. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) is supporting the move with a $3.5 million commitment from its No-Interest Securitized Forgivable Loan Fund.

“Comparing business climates from around the Midwest to Indiana, the Hoosier advantage is clear,” said Governor Mike Pence. “Our low taxes, affordable cost of doing business and skilled Hoosier workforce are key factors in helping companies grow. Today, Indiana’s unemployment rate is the lowest among our neighboring states because businesses like Hoist Liftruck are looking at the numbers and choosing to expand to the vibrant communities in our state.”
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Gary Airport Celebrates New Runway


This picture from the runway dedication program shows the old runway (left) and the new extension.

The Gary/Chicago International Airport formally opened its new, 8,900-foot runway to the applause of hundreds gathered below skies crowded with jets and planes practicing for the upcoming Gary Air Show. Airport Interim Director Dan Vicari called the new runway a game-changer for Northwest Indiana and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson predicted that it would benefit the entire region

The project was started in 2006 but only proceeded by fits and starts until about two years ago. It had an estimated cost of $90 million in 2006 that swelled to an actual cost of $174 million by the project’s end.

Gary and region officials hope the opening of the expanded runway marks the beginning of a new era for Gary, as they craft other economic development projects such as a nearby Buffington Harbor industrial park.

An analysis conducted by the RDA in 2012 projects that the expanded airport will help create more than 2,000 new jobs in the region by 2025 and increase personal income by an estimate $156 million annually. Its impact was already being felt in the days leading up to the runway dedication ceremony with the announcement of two fresh private investments in the footprint of the airport.

First, Carmeuse Lime & Stone broke ground on a new rail terminal, part of a $31 million package of investments that include a new waste-to-energy facility. The company plans to add 30 to 40 jobs as a result of the expansion. Just hours after the groundbreaking, Mayor Freeman-Wilson unveiled a partnership with Terre Haute-based Garmong Construction Services to develop an 85-acre industrial park at the airport.

Both projects are being supported by a $7.5 million grant from the RDA. This grant matches funding from the City of Gary and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to pay for $13.5 million in access road improvements to the sites of Carmeuse Lime and the new industrial park. The RDA is committed to helping the airport and city attract more jobs and investment to the region.

We Need Your Help!

Residents of Lake, Porter and La Porte counties are being asked to weigh in on transit-oriented development (TOD) and service improvements on the South Shore commuter rail line. The online survey is part of an effort by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) to secure Regional Cities funding for TOD and other projects on the South Shore main line.

Encouraging development around existing transit service by both the public and private sectors can improve the entire regional economy by raising incomes and property values.

Please take a few minutes to complete our survey. Please feel free to skip any questions that you do not feel comfortable answering. This survey and the result are confidential and will be used as part of the application for funding for our area.