RDA Partners With Gary, NICTD on TIGER Grant

The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today agreed to join with the City of Gary and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) in applying for a federal grant to fund transit-oriented development (TOD) at and around the South Shore station in Gary’s Miller neighborhood.

Gary is applying for a $21.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, competitive grant program. Gary, NICTD and the RDA are pooling resources to provide the necessary local match for the grant application. NICTD is providing $860,000, Gary $1 million and the RDA $4.26 million.

If awarded the grant, the funds will be used for improvements at the Miller station, including the new high-level boarding platform called for in the NICTD 20-Year Strategic Business Plan jointly developed by the railroad and the RDA.

At today’s RDA Board meeting, the Board also accepted for review a request from Gary for a $7.5 million RDA grant to improve the access road at Buffington Harbor. If the grant is approved, these funds would be combined with investments from the City of Gary, the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to complete the $14 million project. The project would separate industrial and casino traffic at Buffington Harbor and provide increased access to industrial sites near the newly expanded Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Finally, the Board directed the RDA’s fiscal task force to oversee the closing out of the RDA’s No-Interest Securitized Forgivable Loan Program (formerly known as the Deal-Closing Fund). Changes made to the RDA’s enabling legislation in the last session of the General Assembly removed the authorization for this form of economic development from the RDA’s mission. The new law takes effect July 1, and the No-Interest Securitized Forgivable Loan Program will sunset at that point.

In housekeeping details, the Board held its annual election of new officers. State of Indiana appointee Don Fesko was re-elected as Chairman; State of Indiana appointee Harley Snyder was re-elected as Vice-Chairman; and Gary appointee Bill Joiner was re-elected as Treasurer. New Porter County appointee Chris Campbell was also formally sworn in.

Indiana Invests in South Shore Expansion

The Indiana General Assembly approved, and Gov. Mike Pence subsequently signed, a two-year budget that includes funding to build the West Lake Corridor extension of the South Shore commuter railroad.

The state budget, House Bill 1001, provides $6 million a year for the next 30 years to the RDA to help pay for expansion of the South Shore Line to Dyer.

That money will be combined with local tax revenues in Lake and Porter counties to create the $17.5 million annual match required for the federal government to pay half the cost of the $571 million commuter rail project.

The long-term goal is to rebuild the region’s middle class by better connecting Indiana residents to high-salary jobs in Chicago and getting them to spend their paychecks at home; while at the same time redeveloping housing and businesses along the current and future rail lines geared to the needs of commuters.

The $6 million investment from the state this year comes on the heels of operational funding provided during the 2014 session. Last year, the legislature directed a portion of revenues garnered from closing a tax loophole to the RDA in order to establish an operating fund for trains on the West Lake Corridor. This funding, approximately $4.2 million annually, brings the total amount provided for construction and operation of the expansion to more than $10 million a year.

The RDA would like to thank the many people and organizations who have worked so hard over the past two years to make this investment in Northwest Indiana’s future happen. These include Congressman Pete Visclosky, whose challenge to the region in October of 2013 started this whole ball rolling; all the members of the Northwest Indiana legislative delegation, as well as many legislators from elsewhere around the state who also saw the value of commuter rail expansion; the local officials who took time from their schedules to go to Indianapolis and speak in favor of the project; civic leaders from the Emerging Leaders of Northwest Indiana and One Region; the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), operator of the South Shore; the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC); the Northwest Indiana Forum; and a host of others too numerous to mention.

Thank you all.