LOWELL | A few supporters of the proposed South Shore commuter rail line extension to Dyer turned out Monday at a meeting in Lowell.
A few people in the sparse audience at Lowell Town Hall told U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and Lowell Town Council members they’d love the chance to ride a South Shore extension into Chicago.
Lou Maggio said he currently commutes to his job in Chicago by car.
“It’s not effective” to use the South Shore Line because it is too far to the east, he said. But he would use a station in Dyer, he said.
“I think (South Shore) would benefit Lowell,” he said.
On the other hand, Paul Crouse said he moved to Lowell to get away from Cook County and the congestion there, including the Metra commuter trains. Many residents no doubt live in Lowell to enjoy its countryside, he said.
Visclosky was in Lowell to talk about the South Shore extension and ask Lowell for a financial commitment.
Three of the five council members, Phillip Kuiper, Bob Philpot and Craig Earley, attended what was basically a work session, and no decisions were made.
Munster, Highland, Whiting and Hobart already have committed funding for the proposal, and the Merrillville Democrat was asking Lowell to do the same. His proposal asks that Lowell commit up to a third of its share of Lake County economic development income tax toward building the 8-mile South Shore extension to Dyer.
The three council members expressed mixed feelings about the plan. Their sentiments are shared by their constituents, they told Visclosky.
Taxpayers already are being asked to foot the bill for E-911 consolidation, Philpot said. The Illiana Expressway project also is under discussion and likely to be costly.
“We’ve lost a couple of businesses in town,” he said, and residents are wondering just how much economic benefit Lowell can expect if it invests in the South Shore.
Trains are expected to be up and running from Dyer to Chicago in nine years, if all goes well. It could take nine years or more for a station to come as far south as Lowell, if one comes at all.
“I can’t guarantee you (the South Shore) will come to Lowell,” Visclosky said. “But I can guarantee it won’t come to Lowell” if the Dyer extension isn’t built, he said.
Moreover, the benefits of connecting to an economy like Chicago’s likely will flow outward as Northwest Indiana increasingly becomes part of the greater Chicago area, Visclosky said.