MERRILLVILLE | With a March 31 deadline looming to apply for federal funds for the extension of the South Shore commuter rail line to Dyer, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky on Tuesday said the time to unify and act is now.
“We are built upon vision and it is time to take action,” Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said. “It is time to build the train so that our children can come home.”
Visclosky said he has been encouraged by recent bipartisan meetings with local, county and state officials trying to determine a structured revenue to match available federal mass transit dollars.
Visclosky was the featured speaker at the Crossroads Regional Chamber’s monthly luncheon meeting at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza. Despite inclement weather, 210 members attended the event, said Sue Reed, Chamber President and CEO.
Visclosky said with federal matching funds available, for every $1 invested taxpayers receive a 100 percent return.
“We are a region, we are a society, we are a community and we are in this thing together,” Visclosky said. “You are paying for it now and you are not getting the benefits. The next time you put gasoline in your car, remember you are paying a gasoline tax. And a portion of that tax today is going to build mass transit.”
“We are here in the sweet spot of the United States of America because of the investment of our forefathers and others made to create the largest concentration of steel production in the United States of America on the southern shores of Lake Michigan,” Visclosky said.
Other advantages for Northwest Indiana, Visclosky said, are its Interstate highways, the east and west rail lines passing through, its location on the shore of Lake Michigan and its proximity to Chicago.
“What we do need to tie all these positive aspects together is to make a transformational investment as our grandparents and parents made in our future so that the children of Northwest Indiana have the option of staying or coming back here because there are possibilities,” Visclosky said.
Visclosky said although the nation’s population has increased 52 percent since 1970 Lake County’s has declined 9.6 percent. He said young people have left for training, for education and for military service and not come back because “they don’t see a bright economic future for themselves."
“It is, I believe a generational issue,” Visclosky said. “Sixteen- to 34-year-old people drove 23 percent less miles in ‘09 than they did in 2001 because of their concentration in cities like Chicago and their use of mass transit. I’m tired of Illinois building over 4,000 miles of rail line and getting economic development and getting the jobs and getting the income and getting the taxes. It is time Indiana does something for ourselves and that next generation.”