EDITORIAL: Race money here for Cline Avenue

2013-02-18T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Race money here for Cline Avenue nwitimes.com
February 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Nothing reinforces disparaging comments about the Hoosier Holy Land ignoring the far corners of the state quite like Senate Bill 91.

That bill, now before the Senate, would clear the way for giving as much as $100 million to a private company for improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We must acknowledge the races at that track draw national, even worldwide, attention. But the track shouldn't draw legislators' attention from needs elsewhere in Indiana.

That proposal rankles in Northwest Indiana, where transportation is vital to our region's economy yet seems to receive little recognition downstate.

Even as Indiana considers devoting all that money to a couple of sporting events, Northwest Indiana is in year four of having an expressway to Chicago shut down with no deal for a replacement bridge inked yet.

If Indiana were to pay its local share, through a normal bridge replacement, all the state would have to pay is $30 million. The federal government is almost guaranteed to pick up the bulk of the cost.

There are two other expressways that link to Chicago, but the Cline Avenue bridge was a vital link that is now a missing link.

Perhaps those generous downstate lawmakers need to be reminded that the Chicago region's economy is roughly the same size as Switzerland's.

Perhaps they have forgotten Northwest Indiana's casinos and industries give regularly and heavily to support state spending.

Perhaps they have forgotten that Ameristar told investors in August 2010 the sudden bridge closure the previous November had an unexpected adverse impact on the East Chicago casino's revenues (and thus taxes).

Once the Cline Avenue bridge was shut down, the cars and trucks were rerouted onto city streets not designed for that kind of traffic.

After waffling on the bridge replacement options, the Indiana Department of Transportation finally decided to turn this free route into a toll bridge, to be built as a public private partnership.

We're still waiting.

It is outrageous to think Indiana could be willing to give away tax money for the state's motorsports industry while ignoring the needs of the casino, steel and oil industries in this corner of the state.

If the state wants to give the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that money, we say no -- not unless the state is also willing to provide the $30 million cost of building a new, free bridge for the Cline Avenue expressway. 

Ease the flow of traffic for interstate commerce, not just for laps around a track.

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