Gary airport will move fast on expansion financing

2013-03-11T14:16:00Z 2013-03-11T17:32:16Z Gary airport will move fast on expansion financingBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority is being told to proceed "with all due haste" in arranging $34.5 million in financing so it can continue to pay the bills for its $166 million expansion.

Financial adviser Phoebe Selden, a senior vice president at Acacia Financial Group, pointed out the project is entering what is potentially its most expensive phase, with final runway expansion and railroad projects going on at once. It faces a year-end deadline.

"There's just not a lot of time right now," she told the airport authority at its regular meeting at the Airport Administration Building.

The airport authority also has to begin seeking expert legal advice on how any borrowing would affect the current effort to form a public-private partnership to run the airport. If the borrowing is not structured right, it could limit the airport's ability to bring in private investors.

"It's critical to have an attorney and legal counsel on board to advise the airport if this is good or if it may handcuff us going forward," said Airport Attorney Patrick Lyp.

A joint city/airport committee that is forming a recommendation on how to form public-private partnerships at the airport also discussed bringing on additional legal help last week.

The airport may know this month exactly how soon it will need more money. CSX Corp. is slated to respond back this month on how soon it wants to undertake the rehabilitation of its Fort Wayne Line north of the airport. The airport has to cover its estimated $28.4 million price tag.

This year will also see the start and finish of work on the new 1,900-foot runway extension itself, as well as the demolition of the railroad embankment that currently blocks the end of the main runway.

Contractor Superior Construction has resumed work on the Airport Road vehicle overpass at Chicago Avenue, which could be open by mid-April, airport expansion Project Manager Scott Wheeler told the authority.

The new bridge will take cars and trucks over the CSX and rerouted Canadian National Railway tracks. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority is covering its $11.6 million cost.

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