GUEST COMMENTARY: Invest in rail to get a good ROI

2014-03-28T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Invest in rail to get a good ROIBy Benjamin Bochnowski
March 28, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Cities and towns across the country are investing in their future and expanding their rail networks because they see the economic value in transportation. The reality is that if Northwest Indiana does not come together, federal and state money will go to cities and towns ready to invest in the future.

People have a choice in where they live and work, and they are choosing to live in communities with robust transportation options that link them to economic opportunities.

Northwest Indiana is poised for success in the future: It has every resource it needs to succeed, yet the consensus seems to be it is not realizing its potential. A more robust South Shore rail network is a missing ingredient to realizing that potential, but it is well within reach.

Transit is a prerequisite for the modern economy. It connects people to jobs, and it connects regions to the larger economy. Expanding the South Shore will not turn Northwest Indiana into Naperville or Evanston, but it will better integrate the local economy with the global economic hub that is Chicago. This is Northwest Indiana’s chance to secure its place in the future economy, but that requires an investment from the people of Northwest Indiana.

The population and economic base of Northwest Indiana has slowly eroded over the past decades. Indiana time and time again produces more steel than any other state, yet the industry’s employment base, and the population of Lake County, has shrunk consistently since the 1970s.

One needs only look to Chicago's western suburbs for proof of how transit connects people with jobs and benefits the local economy — but one can also look to Northern Virginia and how well they have connected to the D.C. economy. One can look outside our borders to the north, across the Atlantic, and throughout Asia.

The world is investing in transit to connect people to jobs, and this is the moment for Northwest Indiana to invest in the future. The benefits are real, and they have been proven across the world.

Making that connection, however, does require a significant monetary investment. Just like any investment, investors should expect a return. In this case, the investors are the people who work and live in Northwest Indiana, and their return will not come until the train is expanded. But make no mistake — even if that return is in the future, that return will never be realized if the investment is never made.

Communities across Northwest Indiana are supporting South Shore expansion, showing real leadership and stewardship for the economy. Expansion is not a zero-sum game: All of Northwest Indiana will benefit from an expanded rail network, and that’s why communities across Northwest Indiana are committed to investing.

Extending the South Shore will create lasting benefits for all of Northwest Indiana and is a key ingredient for future prosperity.

Benjamin Bochnowski is chief operating officer of Munster-based Peoples Bank. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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