NIRPC transportation plan still not approved

2013-09-10T14:08:00Z 2013-09-11T13:32:05Z NIRPC transportation plan still not approvedLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 10, 2013 2:08 pm  • 

PORTAGE | The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s four-year $724.8 million transportation improvement plan is still in a holding pattern.

At Tuesday’s NIRPC’s transportation policy committee meeting, Transportation Projects Manager Gary Evers told committee members the plan remains in the hands of NIRPC attorney David Hollenbeck.

Approving the TIP has been delayed twice. “This has been an unusual year for TIP,” Evers said.

Two months ago, Evers brought the TIP to the Transportation Policy Committee, which approved it. However, in July the disability rights group Everybody Counts challenged a NIRPC vote on the plan, because no public meetings had been held as required by federal regulations.

“On July 18, we pulled the document,” Evers said.

Then in August, Evers said he admitted he failed to provide 30-day notice for public meetings on the plan as required by a 2006 federal court consent decree.

“The TIP was approved contingent upon legal review (by Hollenbeck),” Evers told committee members. “We’ve not heard back yet from the attorney.”

In related business, the NIRPC Transportation Policy Committee voted to recommend support of Amtrak funding to the full commission. That support resolution will include wording that was recently approved by the area’s transit operators to the effect that such support would not compromise funding for any state public transit providers, said Stephen Sostaric, NIRPC regional planner.

Jim Pinkerton, of the Indiana Department of Transportation, said INDOT has been meeting with mayors of municipalities along the Amtrak line about the federally funded rail line possibly cutting service.

The report on those meetings is due out by the end of September, he said.

“We are working in good faith that Amtrak won’t pull the line by any arbitrary date,” Pinkerton said.

The committee also heard a report about the Lake Station interchange project from I-80/94 to the Indiana Toll Road from Ryan Olsen, infrastructure program director with Indiana Toll Road Concession Co.

That project calls for upgrading current bridge decks. This construction will cause traffic to be rerouted at the Borman’s milepost 17, the Gary east interchange, Olsen said.

ITRCC wants to start the project with bidding in 2013 and have most of the work done in 2014, he said. Olsen said he anticipates the work completed by early to mid-2015.

State Toll Road money would fund this project, which doesn’t add any traffic capacity, Olsen said, but allows the bridges to be used through their 100-year lifespan.

 

* This story has been changed.

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