First ship arrives at Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor

The first ship of the season arrives in April at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. California-based Metro Ports is the new stevedore at Burns Harbor that will handle bulk cargo operations. 

Connecting Northwest Indiana with any and all existing regional, national and world economies is vital to our future.

It's why expanding the South Shore commuter rail line makes so much sense, providing additional access for existing and prospective Region residents to the high-paying job opportunities of the Windy City.

But in an even greater sense, our Region must continue to grow the infrastructure linking us to other world economies.

It's why an anticipated federal grant for the planned expansion of the Port of Indiana in Burns Harbor is so important.

The port is in line to receive a $9.85 million federal grant that would improve its infrastructure to handle multimodal containers that can be loaded onto ships, barges, trucks or trains.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is recommending partial federal funding for a $19.7 million expansion that also will boost the port's cargo handling capacity. The Indianapolis-based Ports of Indiana, a quasi-government agency, would fund the other half of the cost.

"Indiana has one of the premier inland ports systems in North America. This project will increase our state's ability to attract and grow multimodal business in Northwest Indiana," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said recently.

We agree.

Too often, we view Region economic development through too small a lens, not remembering the great global transportation assets ripe for enhancing our economic fortunes.

Funding for the port expansion appears to enjoy bipartisan support, but the federal share of money is not guaranteed.

Congress could vote to block the port expansion or any other similarly funded project within the next 60 days.

Our state and local leaders, and taxpayers themselves, should be sending a clear message to their U.S. House members and senators that the such federal grants pave the way to continued economic relevance.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.