EDITORIAL: Keep South Shore project on track

2014-02-13T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Keep South Shore project on track nwitimes.com
February 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Northwest Indiana's lawmakers are unanimous in their support of the South Shore Line extension to Dyer. Now they need to back up their words with action.

The region's legislative delegation needs to voice its support of providing $4 million a year to provide the first five years of operating costs for the commuter rail service.

The provision in Senate Bill 367 that allocates that $4 million a year to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority is a crucial aspect of getting the trains running to Dyer.

If Northwest Indiana is to receive federal funding for half the cost of building the South Shore extension, it must show it has the financial wherewithal to fund the service for the first five years. That's where the $4 million a year would go. And the deadline for the federal application is March 31.

That money, which should be designated to the RDA for the West Lake Corridor route to Dyer, comes from tightening the Lake County Residential Property Tax Credit to apply to the people who have low income, not just low earned income. Retirees who live off their investments would no longer get this tax break intended for the truly destitute.

Sending that money to Lake County's cities, rather than the RDA, could jeopardize the West Lake Corridor project and the thousands of jobs it would create.

This project would be a boon to Hammond, which would gain a station controlling east-west and north-south passenger traffic along the South Shore Line.

Generating those operating funds is critical for the success of this project.

Likewise, Lake County communities have just over a month to contribute the final $5.7 million needed for debt service each year for the capital costs.

That's 34 percent of their economic development income tax revenue for the biggest economic development project Lake County has seen in decades. It's money well spent.

Northwest Indiana's lawmakers and Lake County's municipalities must get on board with this project so the application can be submitted, with no flaws, before the March 31 application deadline.

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