RICH JAMES: There's more planning than doing in NWI

2013-03-27T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: There's more planning than doing in NWIRich James nwitimes.com
March 27, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If I had a nickel for every study commissioned by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, I’d be a very rich guy.

And I’d soon be getting even richer. For instance:

The Indiana Senate has approved a bill calling for a study committee to look at South Shore Railroad funding and potential expansion into south Lake County. It also calls for a look at the makeup of the NICTD board.

And at the same time, NICTD and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority are paying for a $550,000 study that will include marketing and technical aspects on how to extend the railroad in the future and where assets and investments should go. That plan will be turned over to the legislative committee this summer.

If this plan sounds familiar, you’re right. It has been done many times over the past four decades.

The prior studies — and I suspect this newest $550,000 venture will determine the same — said expansion of the South Shore railroad is needed.

And that expansion will result in the creation of thousands of permanent jobs and millions of dollars in economic development. You know, the very way suburbia blossomed around Chicago.

But, hey, bring on the new study. If you say the same thing long enough, it often becomes reality.

And then there is the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

The operative word there is “planning,” because, well, that’s what it does.

NIRPC studies and plans and once in a while a project will come to fruition. But mostly it plans.

NIRPC now is seeking public comment on revisions to its Public Participation Plan.

The PPP — yeah, if it’s NIRPC, there’s an acronym involved — sets guidelines for the public to offer ideas in planning and decision-making by NIRPC.

The most important thing NIRPC can do now is endorse the construction of the Illiana Expressway between Cedar Lake and Lowell from I-65 into Illinois.

Unfortunately, most of the Illiana input to NIRPC will come from the NIMBYs. Yeah, another acronym, meaning Not In My Back Yard.

But the NIMBYs have about as much vision as a deer frozen by headlights.

Can you imagine where this country would be if the NIMBYs had seized control after the Revolutionary War?

When the new plans are completed and put on the shelf with the others, it’s time for the elected officials in Northwest Indiana to look the NIMBYs in the eye and say, “We are going to expand the South Shore and build the Illiana.”

All this planning reminds me of the sign on an area politician’s wall. It reads, “God so loved the world that he did not send a committee.”

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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