My turn

Let’s catch a TIGER by the tail in Munster

2014-03-21T00:00:00Z Let’s catch a TIGER by the tail in MunsterBy Thomas DeGiulio Times Columnist nwitimes.com
March 21, 2014 12:00 am  • 

TIGER is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, a federally funded initiative for major transportation and infrastructure projects.

The Munster Town Council has authorized town staff to proceed with an application for this sixth round of TIGER funds to finance Phase I of the 45th and Calumet Grade Separation.

These grants are highly competitive; in the last five rounds less than 5 percent of urban applications are approved. The attractiveness of this program is that the minimum request for an urban project must be $10 million. This program is for major projects.

Each phase of Munster's project is $25 million-plus. The $10 million minimum is more than the Northwest Indiana Regional Plan Commission has available annually for all of Northwest Indiana road projects.

This project impacts two states, all of west Lake County, four hospitals, dozens of manufacturing and logistical companies. More than 30,000 vehicles per day use Calumet Avenue and 45th Street.

Anyone who has driven in this area knows of the issues that occur with just regular train traffic. When there are slow trains or blockages, the traffic backups and delays are very disruptive.

We have approached the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority for a contribution for each phase of the project. We are also working with the Indiana Department of Transportation for a significant state contribution. The project is in NIRPC's Transportation Improvement Plan as is necessary for federal funding.

The proposed funding for this project will come from multiple sources. The town has already invested $8.15 million in redevelopment bonds for property acquisition, as well as local funds for design. The Town Council is focusing on set-aside funds from Tax Increment Financing for our local match.

We are working with Centennial Village Partners, LLC to relocate Munster Steel to Hammond and to redevelop the acreage to a mixed-use development. Munster Steel’s new Hammond facility will be completed this summer. Demolition will begin after the company moves and is in operation.

We are planning to have the bid for Phase I, the east-west link of the underpass on 45th Street, ready in mid-2015.

Upon completion of this phase, the town will be ready to move to the north-south phase on Calumet Avenue. We must do the east-west phase first to provide a detour route. Our next challenge will be to secure funding for that $25 million dollar phase.

Don Powers told me years ago that “good projects will always find the money necessary to build them. . .” 

I hope he is right again.

A TIGER grant award will make this project a certain reality. Let’s hope we catch a TIGER by the tail.

Tom DeGiulio is the town manager of Munster. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at tdegiulio@munster.org.

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