EAST CHICAGO | The East Chicago City Council will consider contributing 5 percent of the city's county economic development income tax revenues, with a cap of $125,000 a year, to expand the South Shore commuter train.
It also wants the option to review the commitment each year in case the city needs to adjust to poor economic conditions.
At that percentage, East Chicago would contribute about $123,000 a year, but the amount could change depending on the CEDIT funds collected.
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky has asked each community in Lake County and the county government to consider a pledge of 34 percent from CEDIT funds to expand the rail line. That percentage would total $838,463.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has pledged $8 million toward the project, and an additional $4 million will come from local casino revenues approved by the General Assembly. That's in addition to the $4 million pledged from 16 communities throughout Lake County.
Hammond approved $250,000 to pay for an environmental impact study, but has not committed to annual contributions.
During a workshop meeting Thursday, East Chicago council members raised concerns about expanding the South Shore but said they wanted to support Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
"We can't afford not to give, but not at the amount they're asking," said Councilwoman Gilda Orange, D-6th District.
Orange said Visclosky has worked hard for the region and East Chicago, but the city has to consider its own needs first, before it can help the region.
"It's always about regionalism for East Chicago, but we never hear the other communities offer anything back," Orange said.
Orange wondered if expanding the train south would pull riders away from East Chicago, along with any dollars they spend on gas or food during their commute.
Councilwoman Benita White-Arnold, D-at large, agreed with Orange, but added that every viable urban area has public transportation options. If the train were expanded, it's possible residents in East Chicago without a car could travel to south Lake County.
The political climate in the House of Representatives would make it difficult for Visclosky to get support for the project, city attorney Steve Bower said.
A resolution to commit the funds will be presented at the East Chicago City Council meeting Monday for a vote, Council President Lenny Franciski said.