The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today approved grant agreements with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) to advance commuter rail expansion in Northwest Indiana.
The Board unanimously approved a $20 million grant agreement with NICTD, operator of the South Shore commuter rail system, for costs associated with entering the project development phase of the West Lake Corridor expansion. The Board originally voted to provide the grant in August of 2016.
Also approved was an agreement with NICTD for a $1.6 million matching grant to help fund $4 million in preliminary engineering and environmental work for the South Shore double tracking project. This grant was awarded last April.
The West Lake Corridor and Double Tracking projects are projected to have a transformative effect on Northwest Indiana, attracting an estimated 11,000 new residents and about $1.9 billion in private investment over the next 20 years. For complete details, download the RDA’s updated Comprehensive Strategic Plan here.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (NWIRDA) is seeking sealed proposals from qualified consulting firms to prepare a Market Validation and Financial Feasibility Study regarding the establishment of a convention center in Northwestern Indiana as more fully described and defined in the proposal packet, as prepared by the NWIRDA. All proposals must meet NWIRDA’s specifications as further described in the proposal packet.
The proposal form packet, including specifications, may be downloaded from the above link. It is also available between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., local time, at the following location:
9800 Connecticut Drive
Crown Point, IN 46307
Ph (219) 644-3500
Attn: Sherri Ziller, Chief Operating Officer
Firms will be provided a copy of the competitive proposal packet in electronic format. The proposer will be responsible for the printing of all documents.
Proposals shall be submitted in a sealed opaque envelope clearly marked “Convention Center Market Validation and Financial Feasibility Study”, which shall be contained within an outer shipping envelope and received at:
9800 Connecticut Drive
Crown Point, IN 46307
Attn: Sherri Ziller, Chief Operating Officer
Proposals will be received not later than 2:30 p.m., local time, Friday, March 3, 2017. The proposal opening is not open to the public. Proposals received after the above stated time and date will be returned to the sender unopened.
NWIRDA reserves the right to reject any and all proposals and/or waive minor discrepancies, omissions, variances or irregularities in any proposal, provided it is in the NWIRDA’s best interest to do so. No proposal can be withdrawn for a period of ninety (90) days after the proposals are opened. NWIRDA reserves the right to enter into negotiations with the most responsive and responsible proposer without conducting interviews with any proper if, in its sole opinion, the best possible proposal has been received and interviews would not be productive.
The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) formally adopted the RDA’s updated Comprehensive Strategic Plan (CSP) today. The updated CSP provides a detailed road map for commuter rail expansion and related economic development in Northwest Indiana.
“Building the West Lake Corridor extension and double tracking the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City will bring more people, more jobs, higher incomes and hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment to Northwest Indiana,” said RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna. “The term ‘game-changer’ is overused, but in this case it’s absolutely correct. This investment will make Northwest Indiana the first choice in suburban Chicago for new and existing residents, the first choice for businesses to start or expand, and the first choice for access to jobs, both in the region and in Chicago.”
The CSP update was required by the General Assembly in the 2015 legislation that provided $180 million in state funds for the West Lake Corridor Extension. Copies of the new CSP are available at the RDA’s Crown Point offices as well as online at in.gov/rda.
The Board also took action on two other commuter-related projects. First, the Board approved a $6.847 million matching grant to the city of Valparaiso for expansion of the ChicaGo Dash commuter bus service. The grant would fund demolition, site cleaning and construction of a new transit center in downtown Valparaiso. This facility would include a ticket office, waiting area, restrooms, convenience retail space, and a second floor operations office. The City hopes to complete the project by summer 2019.
Second, the Board approved the reallocation of a $4.5 million matching grant provided to the City of Gary in2015. The grant was originally approved as part of the City’s federal TIGER grant application for transit oriented development at the South Shore station in Miller. Due to the competitiveness of the TIGER grant program, Gary was unsuccessful in obtaining an award. However, updating the Miller station and its surroundings is a core component of regional commuter rail expansion as outlined the updated CSP. Therefore the Board has reallocated the original grant to the project itself, contingent upon local and state matching funds being secured.
In other actions today, the Board:
Approved an amount not to exceed $25,000 to engage consulting firm Barnes & Thornburg to develop a request for proposals (RFP) to conduct a comprehensive market and feasibility study on additional convention/exposition space in Northwest Indiana.
Approved an amount not to exceed $35,000 to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) for technical, facilitation, and account support for the Northwestern Indiana Brownfield Coalition project. NIRPC has worked with the RDA to create, maintain, and grow the project and has served in the role as Assistant Project Manager for the past two years. Funding available through the federal grant for the creation of a Brownfield Program originally funded NIRPC’s support. However, that funding is coming to an end and, in order to maintain continuity and the level of expertise on this project, the RDA will extend its engagement with NIRPC for one year.
Approved the oversight and administration policy for proceeds of the Gary Urban Enterprise Association (GUEA). The RDA has worked in conjunction with the City of Gary Redevelopment Commission and Office of the Attorney General for the State of Indiana to reinvest sales proceeds from GUEA back into the community to create a façade improvement rebate program. The Commission will administer the façade improvement rebate program and formally dedicate the escrow account as a fund exclusively for the façade improvement rebate program, subject to the review of the RDA, pursuant to the direction of the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Indiana. The policy details the eligibility, geographic requirements, applicant requirements, eligible and ineligible activities, application process, review process, award detail, methods of reimbursement for use of the GUEA proceeds. The City of Gary Redevelopment Commission adopted the same policies in August 2016.
The designation moves the project out of the “planning” phase and ensures that local funds spent on South Shore expansion, such as the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority’s recent hiring of an engineering firm to do environmental studies, will be eligible for federal matching funds.
“We are now closer than ever before to the largest commuter rail investment in Indiana history – an investment that will create thousands of jobs in Northwest Indiana and provide world-class access to Chicago, the ninth-largest economy on the planet,” RDA CEO Bill Hanna said.
Most importantly, being placed in project development means that the roughly $600 million West Lake Corridor project is now eligible for 50% federal matching funds. A final determination on that federal match awaits completion of an environmental impact study. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) and the FTA are preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project and expect to have the document ready for public review and comment later this year.
NICTD’s goal is to seek a project rating from the FTA for West Lake in late 2017. If successful, the rating would lead to a funding recommendation in the President’s 2019 budget. Once approved by Congress, construction could begin in 2019/2020, with the start of service in 2022.
INTERACTIVE PUBLIC MEETINGS SET
As West Lake moves toward reality, the RDA and its partner communities will be hosting a series of public meetings later this month in Hammond, Munster and Dyer to exchange information about transit-oriented development and gather feedback from residents. These interactive sessions will be facilitated by Farr Associates, a national planning and architecture firm based in Chicago. These meetings will be held on:
Tuesday October 25th from 6-8 p.m. at Centennial Park Club House in Munster
Thursday October 27th from 6-8 p.m. at the Kenwood School in Hammond
Tuesday November 1st from 6-8 p.m. at the Plum Creek Center in Dyer.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) Board of Directors were presented Thursday with the executive summary to the update of the RDA’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan. This update was required by the General Assembly as part of the process to access state funding for the West Lake expansion of the South Shore commuter rail line.
“When the Indiana General Assembly approved $180 million for the West Lake Corridor last year, they asked that we update out plan to reflect this major new initiative,” explained Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA. “This update lays out a road map for rail expansion and transit-oriented planning and development that will make Northwest Indiana the first choice in suburban Chicago for new and existing residents, the first choice for businesses to start or expand, and the first choice for access to jobs, both in the region and in Chicago.
“With diverse opportunities in all areas, we will be the leading area for economic growth in Indiana. We will be the best example in the nation for balancing growth with preservation, exciting and trendy urban and lake front communities with tranquil rural areas. Northwest Indiana will be the example of what Hoosiers can be when given global opportunity,” he added.
Visclosky told the crowd it was their tax dollars that helped fuel the development of the trail.
“The money we pay is being invested in the future generations of Northwest Indiana,” he said.
The trail development would not be where it is today, Visclosky said, without the help of the RDA. RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said the RDA has been able to leverage $850 million since its inception and approximately 75 percent has been for projects related to the lakeshore.
The beautification of the lakeshore is important, Hanna said, because it has not only made it attractive but manifested a “quality of place.” “It’s about feeling good about where you live,” he said.
Hanna also had the opportunity to speak to members of the latest class of Leadership Northwest Indiana during their briefing on economic development in the region last week.
In both cases, Hanna stressed the benefits of improved connectivity to Chicago, including higher property values, expanded job opportunities, and making the region more attractive to both businesses and residents. The RDA’s vision includes not only the expansion of the South Shore commuter rail system via the West Lake Corridor to Munster and Dyer, but also contemplates significant investments in the existing line. Fully double tracking the South Shore from Gary to Michigan City and modernizing stations in locations like Miller will improve service and bring in new development, Hanna said.
Since our inception in 2006, the RDA has invested about $30 million in regional transportation projects, including new rail cars for the South Shore commuter rail line, and parking and station improvements for the ChicaGo Dash service. Commuters who use these services every day to travel to jobs in Chicago bring back a combined $430 million in personal income annually to spend on goods and services here in Northwest Indiana. The West Lake Corridor expansion will result in an additional $231 million in personal income for the regional economy.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) announced today that it received approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation to enter Project Development for its long anticipated project to double track the South Shore Line from Tennessee Street in Gary, Indiana, to the Michigan Blvd. in Michigan City, Indiana, a distance of approximately 25 miles.
The estimated $210 million project is expected to add 5,000 – 8,000 daily riders to the South Shore Line, increase train frequency by 30%, and improve on-time performance. In addition, double tracking the South Shore Line will allow the railroad to significantly reduce travel times along the line especially at station locations farther away from Chicago.
In March of this year, the NICTD Board of Trustees approved a $4M contract for HDR Engineering to lead the preliminary engineering and environmental studies necessary to request a federal rating of the double tracking project next year. The approval to enter Project Development by the FTA represents their validation of the importance of the project, and also puts the project into the federal pipeline for a 50% matching grant under their Capital Investment Grant program. The Northwest Indiana RDA has committed $1.6M, and Northern Indiana RDA has pledged $800,000 towards the HDR contract.
It is NICTD’s goal to seek a project rating by the FTA in late 2017, which if successful, would lead to a funding recommendation in the President’s 2018 budget. Once approved by Congress, the project is anticipated to commence construction in 2019, with completion in late 2020.
According to NICTD’s General Manager, Michael Noland, the double tracking project “leverages upon years of intelligent, targeted and sustained reinvestment in the infrastructure of the South Shore Line. People always ask me, when can we reduce the travel time to Chicago from South Bend to 90 minutes, or 60 minutes from Michigan City? I tell them double track the railroad, and we can make that happen.”
Noland stated that “double tracking the railroad unlocks the incredible potential of this region.” Bill Hanna, President of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority stated that, in his opinion, “once the federal government approves the project, tens of millions of dollars of investment will pour into the region for transit oriented development opportunities along the rail line in Hammond, Miller/Lake Street, Michigan City, Gary, East Chicago, Chesterton, and Portage.” Hanna emphasized “this type of investment is only the tip of the iceberg of the economic development that is associated with the completion of this project.” The return on investment for the State of Indiana is huge, according to Hanna. “It’s probably a minimum of 4 to 5 times the State investment that’s required, and a key element, in tandem with the West Lake extension, in attracting and retaining population to this region.”
The next step in this process, in addition to completing the preliminary engineering and environmental studies, is locking up the all important local/state share of $105 million to qualify for federal funding.