RDA Readies Federal Funding Bid

The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority today approved a resolution formalizing the RDA’s financial commitments to West Lake and Double Tracking bond issues. The Board also formally accepted reports from KPMG and Farr Associates which, along with the resolution, will be submitted to the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) tomorrow by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD).

These items are part of the package NICTD is submitting to FTA for a project rating, the first step in securing federal matching funds for West Lake and Double Tracking. This submission will come just over a week after local and state officials, including Governor Eric Holcomb, met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who praised these projects for their bipartisan nature and focus on private investment.

“For Indiana, the Crossroads of America is more than a motto—it’s a mission. Today’s actions by the RDA Board propel the northern and northwest regions of our state to capitalize on location by working to improve access to one of the nation’s largest economies, neighboring Chicago,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Connecting Indiana through double tracking the South Shore line will help take our economy to the next level by building a brighter future for Hoosiers.”

Wednesday’s resolution reinforces the RDA’s financial leadership position in funding West Lake and Double Tracking. It allows the RDA to borrow up to $750 million to cover the construction costs and debt service on the two projects. “I commend RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna and the RDA Board of Directors for demonstrating their commitment to the future of Northwest Indiana by making this tangible financial commitment to the South Shore Rail Line,” said Congressman Peter Visclosky, long-time champion of South Shore expansion and recapitalization. “The RDA’s collaborative work with NICTD and our other state, local, and community partners will have innumerable positive benefits for all current residents and generations to come.”

Projects like West Lake and Double Tracking are exactly the kind of transformative regional projects that Indiana legislators had in mind for the agency when it was created 12 years ago, said RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna. “West Lake and Double Tracking represent the largest investment in commuter rail ever made in Indiana,” he noted. “Together, they are projected to double South Shore ridership; attract an estimated 11,000 new residents to Lake and Porter counties; create more than 6,000 new jobs in Indiana; and catalyze more than $2 billion in private investment in Lake, Porter, La Porte and St. Joseph counties over the next 20 years.”

For more details on West Lake and Double Tracking, download the RDA’s updated strategic plan at in.gov/rda. The resolution, reports and presentations from today’s board meeting can be found at here, and will be added to our in.gov/rda page shortly.

RDA Accelerates South Shore Double Tracking with New Funding Commitment

The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority today approved an ongoing commitment of up to $3 million annually for the next 30 years to help fund the South Shore double tracking project. This commitment stands as Lake and Porter counties’ portion of the project cost, which are being shared by local governments in the four northern Indiana counties that the South Shore serves: Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph.

RDA funding comes in the wake of recent rail funding commitments across northern Indiana, including ones from Michigan City and LaPorte County. “Having local funding in place for South Shore double tracking puts us at a significant advantage over other parts of the country that are also seeking federal matching funds for their transportation projects,” says Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore, plans to begin construction on the approximately $290 million project by 2019 and have trains operating on the new rail by 2020.

Fully double tracking the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City, combined with other improvements including high level boarding platforms and track realignments in South Bend and Michigan City, will dramatically lower travel times and improve service to and from Millennium Station in Chicago, as shown in the accompanying table.

Together, the West Lake Corridor project in Lake County and the double tracking project across northern Indiana are projected to roughly double South Shore ridership; attract an estimated 11,000 new residents to Lake and Porter counties; create more than 6,000 new jobs in Indiana; and catalyze approximately $2 billion in private investment in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties over the next 20 years. For more details, download the RDA’s updated strategic plan.

Commuter Rail Projects Move Forward

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.

RDA Board Adopts Updated Strategic Plan

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.

RDA Board of Directors Approves Grants for NICTD, Legacy Foundation

Milton Reed (right) was sworn in at today's board meeting as East Chicago's representative on the RDA Board of Directors.

Milton Reed (right) was sworn in at today’s board meeting as East Chicago’s representative on the RDA Board of Directors.

The Board of the Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) today took another step toward expanding commuter access to Chicago with a $1.6 million matching grant to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) to help fund $4 million in preliminary engineering and environmental work for the South Shore double tracking project.

“Expanding capacity on the existing South Shore line is critical to boosting the economy and creating new jobs here in Northwest Indiana,” said Bill Hanna, President and CEO of the RDA. “Along with the West Lake Extension, double tracking will attract new residents, new businesses and new development to the region and put us on a sustainable, long-term path to growth.”

The $1.6 million grant will help offset the cost of the project for NICTD while it seeks additional contributions from partners in the region, including funding from the Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority. This preliminary engineering and environmental analysis must be completed before NICTD can seek Core Capacity funding from the Department of Transportation for the double tracking project.

“The Northwest Indiana RDA’s continuing commitment to invest in the South Shore Line and the West Lake Extension is greatly appreciated,” said Mike Noland, CEO and General Manager of the South Shore Line/NICTD. “Our shared vision of the benefits that flow from sound investments in the railroad will pay dividends to our riders, the residents of our four-county service region and all the citizens of the great state of Indiana.”

The double tracking project would add a second full track to the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City. Currently, the South Shore line is only double tracked from Chicago to Tennessee Street in Gary. After that, the South Shore has only a single track for both eastbound and westbound trains. As a result, trains must regularly slow or stop on passing sidings to allow a train travelling in the opposite direction to pass.

Double-tracking would greatly reduce commuting times to and from Chicago by allowing the South Shore to increase the number and speed of trains it runs each day. This will elevate the region above its suburban Illinois counterparts in the competition for Transit-Oriented Development, new businesses and new residents.

The Board also approved a $75,000 matching grant to the Legacy Foundation for its Neighborhood Spotlight initiative in Gary’s Miller neighborhood.

“Over the past two years, the Legacy Foundation and its partners have worked with residents of Miller to identify key assets in their neighborhood and build consensus around a vision for their future,” Hanna said. “Among those assets are the South Shore train station and Marquette Park, which are not only important to Miller but are also signature transportation and shoreline resources for the entire region. This grant will help Legacy and the residents of Miller maintain, improve and increase access to those properties for the benefit of all of Northwest Indiana.”

“Legacy Foundation is grateful for the generous support provided by the Regional Development Authority,” said Legacy Foundation President Carolyn Saxton. “Through the planning that has taken place with Neighborhood Spotlight’s collective impact initiative, RDA funding will be directed to solving community problems, creating opportunities and taking action steps to enhance the lives of people who live, work or play in Gary’s Miller neighborhood.”

Neighborhood Spotlight provides a framework for capacity-building, planning and implementation block by block. It is modeled after successful community development work in Indianapolis and Chicago. Neighborhood Spotlight guides a cross-section of community members who work collaboratively and collectively on improving quality of life in their neighborhoods. A convening organization, usually a community-based organization, will spearhead the coordination of neighborhood relationships. Miller hired a community builder and formed The Miller Spotlight Steering Committee to help carry out their community quality of life study.

The Steering Committee conducted more than 200 one-on-one interviews with residents to see what they felt were their community’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. 4,013 comments were collected during the SWOT process. Over the course of the next steps in the Neighborhood Spotlight initiative a plan of action will be created from these findings.

Porter County Airport Project Gets Final Local Match

portrer county airportThe Porter County Council has agreed to contribute $317,197 to a pot of state and local funds that will unlock more than $10 million in federal funds for the reconstruction of the main runway at the Porter County Regional Airport.

While a large sum, the true value of the money is its linchpin role in securing the balance of the funding for the massive $11.3 million project.

The Federal Aviation Administration is contributing 90 percent of the money, the state is picking up 5 percent and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority agreed to provide half of the remaining 5 percent as long as the county comes up with the other half, Porter County Municipal Airport Authority President Paul Chael told the council.

The RDA approved its portion of the match last August. “Just like the airport in Gary, the Porter County airport is a significant driver of regional economic activity,” RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said at the time. “A 2012 estimate put its economic impact at more than $17 million annually. This grant is a small but vital piece to access federal funding for urgently needed repairs and upgrades.”

The overall project includes rehabilitation and reconstruction on runway 9-27, which is in danger of falling below minimum service levels, as well as completion of a High Intensity Runway Lighting Rehabilitation project which would replace lighting components that are beyond their service lifetime. According to the airport, work on runway 9-27 is set to begin this spring and take about 70 days to complete.

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.

RDA Board Approves $13.5 Million in Grants and Loans

The Board of Directors of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority today approved roughly $13.5 million in matching grants and loans to support more than $160 million in infrastructure and economic development projects in Northwest Indiana.

“We’ve had some things on hold since the beginning of the year,” says RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna. “There were significant questions about our future funding going into the last session of the General Assembly and the board thought it best to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude before committing to anything beyond what we had already committed to. Now that the RDA has received fresh funding and direction from the legislature, we want to move forward as expeditiously as possible so these projects can get started and begin delivering benefits to the region.”

Actions taken today by the RDA Board include:

Φ Approval of a $7.456 million matching grant for the City of Gary for access road improvements at Buffington Harbor. This grant is contingent on final funding commitments from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), which has pledged $2.3 million, and Gary, which has promised a $3.5 million contribution.

This project will expand the newly constructed Gary Marina Access Road (Buffington Harbor Drive) to include an additional travel lane that provides directs access to industrial sites near the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the lakefront from Cline Avenue. This will allow industrial traffic to be separated from Majestic Star Casino traffic and enhance economic development efforts at the airport.

Φ Authorized use of the RDA’s No Interest Securitized Forgivable Loan Program (a.k.a. the Deal-Closing Fund) for two pending economic development projects in Northwest Indiana. The RDA agreed to provide:

$2.5 million to support a potential $110 million investment in Hobart that would create approximately 600 full and part-time jobs, and

$3.5 million for a proposed $35.6 million investment in East Chicago that would relocate about 250 jobs to the region and create an additional 100 new jobs over the next three years.

Ongoing negotiations between the companies involved, the IEDC and local officials preclude releasing further details of these projects at this time. RDA funds will only be used if the projects are finalized. These projects represent the final uses of the No Interest Securitized Forgivable Loan Program, which permanently sunsets July 1 by order of the Indiana General Assembly.

Φ Agreed to partner with Purdue and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) to pursue federal funds under the new NOAA Regional Coastal Resilience Grants Program. The RDA will provide $150,000, and Purdue and NIRPC $50,000 each, to access $500,000 in additional federal funding under the program.

The coastal resilience grants program will support regional (Lake, Porter and La Porte counties) approaches to activities that build resilience of coastal regions, communities, and economic sectors to the negative impacts from extreme weather events, climate hazards, changing lakefront conditions, and the vulnerability/climate protection of the South Shore train and Gary Airport.

Φ Approved the first loan from the Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund in the amount of $400,000 for the City of Gary for asbestos abatement at the Ambassador Apartments. Part of a $1.7 million demolition project, this effort will transform a dangerous, abandoned apartment building in the Horace Mann neighborhood into a vibrant green space with mixed-use development potential. The projects planned completion date is February 2016.

The loan fund is managed by the Northwest Indiana Brownfield Coalition (NWIBC). The Coalition and Loan Committee include the cities of East Chicago, Hammond, Gary, and also NIRPC, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the RDA. The NWIBC Loan Committee, on June 12, voted to approve the application. The loan term is five years with 0% interest charged as long as the loan is fully repaid within that time.

Φ Finally, the Board of Directors approved an amount not to exceed $450,000 to update the RDA’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan as required by legislation passed in the 2015 Indiana General Assembly. The update is a prerequisite to RDA receiving $6 million annuaLlY from the state for construction of the West Lake Corridor.

Because of this need to closely integrate the planning of transit-oriented development (TOD) side-by-side with the planning of rail construction and financing, the update will include both the West Lake and TOD planning elements. The update, to be done by Policy Analytics, LLC and American Structurepoint, will be completed by April 2016.