RDA accepts $30 million application from Gary airport to build vehicle overpass

2011-04-19T17:45:00Z 2011-04-25T12:50:06Z RDA accepts $30 million application from Gary airport to build vehicle overpassBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

MERRILLVILLE | The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority on Tuesday asked the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority for $30 million to build a vehicle overpass on Airport Road.

The request is one of the largest ever made of the RDA, ranking just ahead of the city of Gary's $28.1 million request for Marquette Park and just behind the city of Hammond's $31.4 million request for its Hammond Lakes project.

The RDA accepted the application on a 6-0 vote at its regular meeting at the Purdue Technology Center of Northwest Indiana. It now will be referred to an RDA working group for consideration and then forwarded back to the full board for approval.

RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna thought that process could be completed within four weeks allowing "dirt to fly by the Fourth of July" on the airport's $128 million expansion project.

The airport would use the bulk of the $30 million to build an overpass for railroad tracks just west of where Chicago Avenue meets Airport Road, formerly called Industrial Highway. The rest of the money would be used to build two rail bridges north of the airport and a rail connection near Cline Avenue.

All those projects are needed to move railroad tracks that sit just 130 feet from the end of the airport's main runway and block its expansion. Once the tracks are moved, the airport plans to extend the runway to 8,900 feet from its current 7,000 feet.

"The expansion of the runway is vital to Northwest Indiana and there is no way we can get this done without the RDA," airport Director Steve Landry said.

In other action, the RDA board voted 6-0 to accept a $3.9 million application from the town of Porter for the second phase of its Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project.

That project aims to better connect Porter County communities with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, according to A.J. Monroe, the town's consultant on the project. The first phase of the project, funded in part with $1.8 million granted by the RDA in 2009, is nearly complete, Monroe said.

"The town of Porter continues to have a lot of dirt flying and all for the good," Town Council President Trevin Fowler told the RDA. "And we hope to continue to keep that dirt flying."

The Indiana Department of Transportation is a major player in the Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project, currently rebuilding U.S. 49 bridges over U.S. 20, U.S. 12, and the South Shore commuter railroad tracks at a total cost of $6.9 million.

The bridge over U.S. 20 currently carries restricted traffic and will be complete by the end of June, according to INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton. The bridge over U.S. 12 and the South Shore tracks will be opened to one lane in each direction by Memorial Day and work will be completed by September.

If the RDA board approves the town of Porter's request, the $3.9 million will be used to build trail heads connecting the Calumet and Dunes Kankakee trails, to build a segment of the Dunes Kankakee trail between U.S. 20 and U.S. 12, for reconstruction of Ind. 49 near the national park entrance and for further design and engineering work on the gateway area and its trails.

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