RDA Board Elects Officers for 2016

The Board of the Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today elected officers for 2016 and welcomed the newest Board member, Tom Golab.

The Board re-elected Don Fesko to the position of Chairman. Former Treasurer Bill Joiner, the City of Gary’s representative on the Board and its longest-serving member, was elected Vice Chairman. Porter County appointee Chris Campbell was elected Treasurer in Joiner’s place.

New Board member Tom Golab was sworn in by RDA attorney Dave Hollenbeck. Golab is one of two appointments to the RDA Board of Directors made by Gov. Mike Pence (the other being Chairman Fesko). He will serve a four-year term.

2015: The Year in Review

?????It’s been a very busy year for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. As we head into the final week of 2015, here’s a look back at some RDA highlights from the past 12 months.

In what was probably the most important development, the RDA worked in concert with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), local civic and business leaders, and the Northwest Indiana delegation to the General Assembly to secure a $180 million state investment to expand South Shore commuter rail service in Lake County via the West Lake Corridor. In 2016 the RDA and NICTD will complete initial environmental and planning work, and make a formal request to the Federal Transit Administration to enter project development.

This past year also saw the RDA, the City of Gary, the region and the State all celebrate the completion of the runway expansion and railroad relocation project at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. We also provided part of the funding for a $13.5 million road realignment project near the Gary airport which will facilitate an expansion of Carmeuse Lime and development of an industrial park in the airport’s footprint.

Our efforts to improve the Lake Michigan shoreline focused on East Chicago in 2015. We saw the completion of the Unity Plaza project and the start of work on the Promenade at Jeorse Beach and on retail development in the North Harbor area. All of this was part of the first phase of the city’s Waterfront Revitalization Initiative. In 2015, the RDA Board of Directors approved a second grant of $12.9 million for phase II of the initiative.

The Board also approved a $6 million grant to the Town of Munster to support a $35 million street realignment project that will open the way for transit-oriented development in Munster once the West Lake Corridor is put through. Additionally, RDA also provided a $317,000 grant to the Porter County Regional Airport to act as matching funds to secure more than $12 million for runway and equipment improvements, and a $250,000 grant to assist in keeping dial-a-ride service going in North Township. That RDA grant provides a match to access $1.25 million in federal money.

2015 also saw the first use of the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, with the Board approving approximately $400,000 for remediation work at the site of the Ambassador Apartments in Gary. The year also marked two of the last uses of the RDA’s deal-closing fund, which provided financial support for the relocation of American Stair from Illinois to Hammond and Hoist Liftrucks from Illinois to East Chicago. Our authority for that program was terminated by the General Assembly during the 2015 session.

In 2016, the RDA will focus most strongly on transportation-related initiatives, including: the West Lake Corridor; upgrades to the existing South Shore line; and transit-oriented development planning. We would like to thank all those who have worked with us and supported us over the past year, and look forward to continuing our trusted, tested, results-oriented partnership in the year ahead.

Gary Airport Releases RFQ for Master Plan Update

runwayThe Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from firms to provide professional planning and engineering services to update the airport’s vision for the next 20+ years of airport development.

RFQ responses are due January 7, 2016.

The last Master Plan Study for the airport was completed in 2001. That plan called for several major projects, including improved Runway Safety Areas, railroad and power line relocation, improved and new facilities, and extending the airport’s main runway.

The airport has accomplished many of the goals outlined in the 2001 Master Plan. Among them, the airport added a second fixed-base operator, B. Coleman Aviation, and two new, LEED-certified hangars at Gary Jet Center. Additionally, the $174 million Runway Expansion Project was completed in July 2015. The project:

  • Upgraded Runway Safety Areas to be in compliance with new Federal Aviation Administration standards;
  • Relocated 4.6 miles of railroad track, more than 20,000 feet of power lines, and a substation; and
  • Extended the main runway by 1,900 feet, allowing the airport to accommodate larger planes and serve more destinations.

Earlier this year, the airport’s private partner AFCO/AvPORTS also released its Vision plan for future development at the airport, which includes securing a customs facility and returning commercial airline service to the airport by 2017.

Visit the airport’s website to view the Request for Qualifications. Qualified teams will be interviewed and a contract is expected in March 2016.

The State of Indiana and the RDA invested a total of $50 million in the rail relocation and runway expansion project at the airport. According to a return-on-investment analysis done in 2012, the airport expansion will generate more than 2,000 new jobs, primarily in transportation, warehousing and manufacturing, by 2025. The RDA recently approved a $7.5 million matching grant to the City of Gary to improve road access to industrial sites near the airport to further encourage development.

RDA Vice-Chairman Harley Snyder Chooses Not to Seek Reappointment

Harley Snyder_smallNorthwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Board of Directors Vice-Chairman Harley Snyder has informed Chairman Don Fesko that he is withdrawing his name from consideration for reappointment to the Board.

“I have been informed today that Harley Snyder will not be seeking reappointment to the RDA Board of Directors,” Fesko said in a statement. “Harley has indicated to me that he would like to provide an opportunity for a new individual to contribute to our regional progress.

“Harley is a founding member and has served honorably for over a decade. In that time Harley has played a valuable role in the securing of funds for the extension of the South Shore West Lake corridor, completing the runway extension at the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the rebuilding of the shoreline of Lake Michigan,” Fesko added.

Harley has agreed to continue to serve on the Board until such time as Governor Mike Pence appoints a replacement.

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.