Morning Links: Agencies Seek Illiana Route Approval

INDOT and IDOT have asked the feds to approve a preferred route for the Illiana Expressway. The chosen corridor would start on I-65 south of 153rd Avenue and run west between Lowell and Cedar Lake.

Porter County Council president Dan Whitten has come out against plans to loan $15.5 million to Lake County.

All the candidate for Porter County council and commissioner said last night that they would never spend the proceeds of the hospital sale.

Congressman Pete Visclosky was in Michigan City yesterday to talk about increasing public access to the lakeshore.

The Times is not pleased with certain members of NIRPC’s board for blocking the appointment of a new executive director last week.

The new Martin Luther King Drive bridge over the Boorman is complete and open to traffic.

Photo of the Day: Northside Trail Groundbreaking

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Local officials including RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna (far left) break ground on the new Northside Trail in Portage. The 1.13 mile trail includes links to the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk and the nearby Ameriplex business park. It includes a trailhead at the headquarters of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) and will link in with the Marquette Greenway. The project also includes preserving existing habitat, adding three acres of native prairie and planting more than 200 new trees.

Morning Links: Early Voting High in Porter County

Initial reports suggest early voting in Porter County may reach record numbers.

NIRPC will meet Oct. 29 to try again to hire a new executive director.

Lake County, which wants to borrow $15.5 million from Porter County, says it is worth the risk despite an existing $111 million in red ink.

The University of Phoenix is closing its Merrillville campus as part of a move that will shutter 120 facilities nationwide.

The price of fire protection has gone up at the Gary Airport.

Morning Links: Porter Lends Funds to Lake County

Porter County is lending – or has already lent – roughly $50 million to Lake County entities.

Unemployment rates fell significantly in Northwest Indiana in September. Unemployment in Laporte County dropped to 8.8% from 9.7% in August, Lake County slid from 9.3% to 8.8% and Porter County fell to 6.9% from 7.6%.

The Indiana Department of Finance has approved Burns Harbor’s request to increase its cumulative capital development fund rate. The increase is expected to raise collections from less than $30,000 to more than $200,000.

Home prices and housing sales were up in the region in September.

Valpo Chamber President Rex Richards wants more shovel ready sites in Porter County.

Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal dredging work should finally begin this week.

Area Development magazine has ranked Indiana the 8th-best state for doing business in its annual rankings.

George Lake Pedestrian Bridge Wins Statewide Honors

NIRPC Executive Director John Swanson (right) presents the Outstanding Transportation Project award to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.

The Indiana Metropolitan Planning Organization Council has named the George Lake Pedestrian Bridge connecting Hammond and Whiting as a 2012 Outstanding Transportation Project.

The award, in the category of Special Design or Construction, was presented October 17 during the Indiana MPO Councils’ annual conference in Bloomington. It was accepted by John Swanson, Executive Director of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC), one of 14 Indiana MPOs which make up the Council. Swanson in turn presented the award to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. today at NIRPC’s board meeting in Portage.

Opened this past spring, the George Lake Pedestrian Bridge joins the lakefront trails of Hammond and Whiting. It forms a critical link in the Marquette Plan’s vision for a trail system connecting Northwest Indiana and Chicago. The $4 million project was funded by a grant from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA).

Morning Links

We appreciate the coverage of yesterday’s RDA board meeting from the Times of Northwest Indiana and the Post-Tribune.

A new study says that “green jobs” and “green investments” are critical to the growth of Northwest Indiana. The complete report can be found here.

During a contentious session, the Porter County Council decided to use unallocated CEDIT money to cover a budget gap.

Allegiant flights from Gary Chicago International Airport to Orlando, FL, resume tomorrow.

The new Crown Point library opens next Monday.

RDA Creates Community Challenge Fund, Backs Economic Development

Kirk Yard, Gary, IN

The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today approved requests for the use of the RDA’s Deal Closing Fund to bring jobs and economic development to Northwest Indiana.

During its quarterly board meeting at the Purdue Tech Center in Crown Point, the Board agreed to use $4.45 million from its Deal Closing Fund to support efforts to attract two new companies to Lake County and one to Porter County. These three projects will create an estimated 314 jobs over the next several years. Full details will be released when the deals are finalized. If for any reason the deals are not completed, no RDA funds will be released.

The RDA created its Deal Closing Fund in 2011 to support job creation in Northwest Indiana. It has previously employed the fund to help bring Modern Forge’s new facility to Merrillville and improvements by CN to the Kirk Yard in Gary.

The RDA Board also gave the go-ahead for the creation of a Community Challenge Fund that would provide matching grants to assist units of local government in Lake and Porter counties in leveraging funds from the private sector and/or public entities for public initiatives or projects of regional significance. The Fund will begin with an annual authorization of $1 million per year and each applicant may apply for a maximum of a $200,000 grant.

Details of the application process and requirements for these grants are under development and will be submitted to the Board for approval before the end of the 2012.