EDITORIAL: Coordinate planning for 'game changer' projects

2011-06-14T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Coordinate planning for 'game changer' projects nwitimes.com
June 14, 2011 12:00 am

Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois are both part of the same metropolitan area. Goods and people travel freely between them. So both regions should coordinate their infrastructure planning.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the Urban Land Institute and the Metropolitan Planning Council are all are working to enhance the quality of life in Northwest Indiana.

The Gary and Region Investment Project is doing just that -- bringing together people from all across the wider area to focus on improving the quality of life throughout the region by focusing investment on key projects in Lake County's urban core. That's the way it should be.

Monday's program at the Lost Marsh Clubhouse in Hammond showed how this should work.

The Urban Land Institute Chicago infrastructure committee presented its list of "game changers" for the Chicago area, including a number of projects in Northwest Indiana.

Those "game changers" are big projects -- really big. They include extension of the CTA's Red Line, expansion of Gary/Chicago International Airport and construction of a Kensington rail bypass to eliminate the passenger rail bottleneck and others.

"All of these projects are really too big for any one source to fund," said Urban Land Institute Chicago Infrastructure Committee member Mark Angelini of Mercy Housing.

They also are so big that they will have an impact on both sides of the state line.

The extension of the CTA's Red Line to 130th Street will provide an easy place for riders to transfer between the CTA, which serves Northeast Illinois, and the South Shore Line, which serves Northwest Indiana. That would open many commuting options for riders from both states.

The Kensington bypass would end the current bottleneck for South Shore trains going to and from the Loop. That would allow the option of more frequent service on the existing South Shore Line and the possibility of extending service to the south and east.

The extension of the Gary/Chicago International Airport's main runway not only would allow the airport to keep Boeing as a client but also opens opportunities for service as the third major airport serving the Chicago area.

And those are just three examples of the types of big projects that hold promise as game changers -- projects that will have implications in both Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana.

Infrastructure planning should be coordinated along both sides of the state line. It's one big region, after all, and working together can produce better results.

This is a great opportunity to focus on issues that will fuel a bright future.

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