Congressman Pete Visclosky testified yesterday before the Indiana General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment and Solution. He spoke out strongly in favor of rail expansion to connect Northwest Indiana to job opportunities in Chicago, and warned that without such an investment the region would fall behind. Below is an excerpt from his testimony.
It is clear that transit oriented development works and that it is a means to diversify our economy. For example, Washington, D.C., experienced a large amount of commercial development when Metrorail was constructed. In the years of its completion, 97 percent of the regional economic development took place in close proximity to a Metrorail station.
And consider Chicago’s economy, which is larger than the economy of Sweden. One reason for its economic dominance is because there are 410 miles of commuter rail lines in Illinois emanating from the Chicago Loop. Attached to this testimony is a Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District map that shows these Illinois rail lines. It also shows the one line to the Chicago Loop from Indiana, with its 35 miles of commuter rail from the Illinois border to Michigan City.
Chicago knows the value of commuter rail, as its planning documents call for 75 percent of their resident homes to be within walking distance of public transit by 2040. Chicago’s average job pays 38 percent more than a job in Northwest Indiana, and we need to facilitate the movement of people to those jobs. We need to have expanded South Shore service so that young, talented people realize that Northwest Indiana, with our affordable housing and low tax rates, and with access to the economy, culture, sports, and entertainment of Chicago, is the place to live, raise a family, and yes – invest in new jobs.