Airport, RDA make plea for Cline bridge

2011-07-26T10:00:00Z 2011-07-26T11:11:43Z Airport, RDA make plea for Cline bridgeBy Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 26, 2011 10:00 am  • 

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority has teamed with the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority in hopes of reversing INDOT's decision to not replace the Cline Avenue Bridge.

In a letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels obtained by The Times, the chairmen of both boards said the rebuilding of the elevated bridge between Michigan and Calumet avenues "is a critical issue for our region."

Dated Friday, the letter is signed by Nathaniel Williams, Airport Authority chairman, and Leigh Morris, RDA chairman. Copies also were sent to Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael Cline, Daniels' chief of staff, Earl Goode, and INDOT Chief of Staff Robert Zier.

The Cline Avenue Bridge "has a direct and vital impact on our ability to generate and sustain new private investment that will help bring Northwest Indiana out of the economic slump it's been in for far too long," the letter states.

The airport and businesses that will locate in the area around the airport will require "clear and efficient highway access from I–94, the Indiana Toll Road, SR 912, U.S. Highways 12 and 20 and other highways," Williams and Morris said in the letter.

"The proposal by INDOT to utilize city streets as an alternative ... undermines our ability to capitalize on our proximity to Chicago to support the airport's development as well as our ability to entice Illinois employers to establish operations in Northwest Indiana," they said.

The chairmen also said the organizations "intend to create a comprehensive land use plan for this area that will foster development that complements or supports airport operations (hotels, restaurants, etc.) and which will create major new private investment and job creation (particularly by industrial employers that will utilize this airport's planned freight logistics operations)."

Gov. Mitch Daniels told The Times on July 12 that despite INDOT's July 1 announcement that the shuttered bridge will be torn down, he's willing to listen to plans to replace it.

INDOT expects to put the contract to demolish the bridge up for bid in November, with construction work beginning next year on a new route using Riley and Dickey roads in East Chicago, according to INDOT.

Earlier this year, Ameristar Casino offered to contribute up to $35 million to replace the bridge, which many casino patrons use to reach the East Chicago boat. INDOT said the Ameristar deal didn't pan out.

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