Hammond mayor hesitant to contribute funds toward South Shore extension

2014-04-02T20:15:00Z 2014-04-09T11:29:04Z Hammond mayor hesitant to contribute funds toward South Shore extensionElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. plans to propose a resolution to the City Council later this month that would help fund an environmental study on the impact of the South Shore extension but would hold off on providing funding to the extension.

The resolution calls for the city to use $250,000 from its county economic development income tax toward the environmental impact study that will be completed by AECOM. Further funding would depend on the results from the study.

"I think regionally but by bottom line job is to take care of the citizens of Hammond, McDermott said.

The eight-mile rail extension to Dyer is not expected to be up and running until 2023. The project is estimated to cost $571 million. The Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program would pay up to 50 percent of that, according to a study prepared by URS Corp. for South Shore operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

McDermott said the city is committed to the project, but said he feels rushed to commit a large sum of  tax payer money. He said officials want a more detailed plan of the extension with information about effects it could have on his city. 

He said some worry a new station will mean commuters will stop driving to the Hammond South Shore train station, which could have a ripple effect on nearby businesses.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, has been awaiting decisions from Hammond, East Chicago and Gary, which could be the largest financial contributors to the South Shore extension.

Earlier this week Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she will ask the City Council to commit 20 percent of the city's county economic development income tax toward the extension. That percentage will translate to $793,900 annually.

East Chicago has not announced a decision on funding for the South Shore extension. 

Thus far 11 communities in Lake County have pledged about $3.2 million annually. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has pledged $8 million toward the project, which is in addition to the $4 million being diverted from local casino revenues approved by the General Assembly. 

According to the resolution proposed by McDermott, Hammond is already contributing $600,000 from casino revenues to the project.

McDermott said he anticipates the council will approve the resolution.

The Hammond City Council is scheduled to meet April 14.

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