The West Lake expansion of the South Shore commuter rail line was recently advanced into the “project development” phase by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
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.
These meetings are designed to give us information about what you, the residents, want to see, so we encourage everyone interested in what new development in their community should look like to come out and be a part of the process. Look for more information on the new West Lake TOD Web site here.