Elaine Chao in South Bend

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, center, speaks at a press conference at the South Bend International Airport last month. Behind her are Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, left, and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana.

Kale Wilk, The Times

Preliminary positioning couldn't be better for plans to double-track and expand a portion of the South Shore commuter rail line.

Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb had the ear of his friend and former boss, former Indiana governor and now Vice President Mike Pence, regarding the issue.

Holcomb has given the project unbridled support, and he personally handed a letter to Pence — to be passed on to the U.S. transportation secretary — pushing for the matching federal funds needed for the project.

The stakes are high. It has the power to be the most transformative economic development project our Region, or state, has seen in decades.

Northwest Indiana can be thankful to have such strong voices advocating for our economic fortunes in such high places.

Now President Donald Trump's administration, namely transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, should listen to the overtures.

"These projects have the capacity to truly transform Northwest Indiana by creating a catalyst for billions of dollars in private investment and thousands of high-paying, permanent jobs for Hoosiers," Holcomb wrote in the letter.

"The accompanying economic development activity, coupled with ongoing strategic investments in local schools, workforce development programs and housing options made throughout Northwest Indiana, collectively have the power to strengthen the proud, historically vibrant communities in the area."

Holcomb has asked Chao to list the South Shore Line's double-tracking and Hammond-to-Dyer extension on the Federal Transportation Administration's funding report, which will be submitted next year to the Republican-controlled Congress alongside Trump's 2019 federal budget.

Supporters of Region commuter rail expansion can take heart in the positive public comments Chao made about the project when she visited the state last month.

Trump's overall administration should welcome the project's promise, as well. The president has proclaimed job creation and preservation as a top priority.

South Shore Line expansion is an all-access ticket to job creation, economic development and connectivity between Region folks and the economic engine that is the city of Chicago.

Trump should listen to the overtures of Holcomb — and hopefully his own vice president — in preserving $2.3 billion for the Capital Investment Grant, upon which a major share of South Shore Line expansion would rely.

Holcomb said it best in his letter when urging Chao to keep the South Shore Line improvements at the top of her list for federal transit funding.

The project is uniquely positioned, the governor said, to be "the national model for successful, forward-thinking infrastructure investments."


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.