EDITORIAL: Lay financial tracks for rail expansion

2014-03-31T11:45:00Z 2014-03-31T11:46:06Z EDITORIAL: Lay financial tracks for rail expansion nwitimes.com
March 31, 2014 11:45 am  • 

The ball is rolling on local funding for the South Shore extension to Dyer. So far, nearly half of Lake County's municipalities have made a financial commitment, as has Lake County government, through their new County Economic Development Income Tax revenues.

Together, they have come up with about $3.1 million of the annual amount needed to repay the bond for extending the South Shore.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and some of his supporters have worked tirelessly to get Lake County's 19 municipalities to chip in for the South Shore extension.

Think of it as a fraction of a fraction. The CEDIT tax is 0.25 percent of the incomes of Lake County residents and non-Hoosiers who work in Lake County. Visclosky is asking for about one-third of that 0.25 percent.

Last fall, he set Monday as the deadline for coming up with the local match.

We commend Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Hobart, Lake Station, Munster, Schererville, Schneider, Whiting, Winfield and Lake County officials for seeing the wisdom of backing one of the region's biggest economic development projects in history.

Yet to sign on are Cedar Lake, Crown Point, East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Lowell, Merrillville, New Chicago and St. John. They should do so with haste. This train needs to leave the station. 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she has promised to inform Visclosky of her city's intentions by his deadline.

"This isn't just to extend the South Shore to Dyer and St. John," Freeman-Wilson said. "It also contemplates investment in the existing line."

That's key, because improvements will help those cities as well.

Of the cities along the existing route, Hammond — which has yet to make a commitment — stands to gain the most, because the northern terminus of the new route would be in Hammond, bringing riders to a new train station.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which has done much for the shoreline cities, has pledged $8 million a year for the South Shore expansion.

On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence showed his commitment by signing Senate Bill 367, which sets aside $4 million a year to amass money for the first five years of operating costs.

Momentum is building for the biggest economic development project to hit Lake County in decades. The remaining communities now need to add their support.

Let's get this rail line built to tap into Chicago's vast job market.

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