The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority will ask communities that are — or perhaps will be — hosts to commuter railroad stations to collect data on recent and planned development around station areas for inclusion on a list to be provided to the Federal Transit Administration, in support of the RDA and South Shore Line's pursuit of funding for the West Lake Corridor and Double Track rail projects.
The RDA will report on economic development related to the rail projects on a quarterly basis. The work will be done in conjunction with a regional steering committee's efforts regarding creation of transit development districts around current and proposed stations.
The Transit Development District Steering Committee held its third meeting Wednesday. Bill Hanna, the RDA's president and CEO, said the committee's purpose is to help communities get the best return they can on the South Shore's capital investment.
"It's about having choices and a little bit of control of your destiny," he said regarding transit-oriented development. "This is about giving control to the communities, not just taking the first thing that comes along."
The steering committee was created by the state statute that allows for creation of TDDs, which will capture new property and income tax revenue in their boundaries once established. That incremental tax revenue can be used to aid development within the one-half-square-mile districts in the same way tax increment financing, or TIF, districts do now.
The RDA is also collecting data regarding the existing use and ownership of property around the current and planned stations, as a first step toward mapping the TDDs, something the RDA, steering committee and communities will be undertaking in earnest next year.
Two public hearings will be held for each TDD proposed. The State Budget Committee, made up of legislators and budget agency officials, has ultimate authority to approve TDDs.
The TDD work can be done independently of the federal grant process, without awaiting a final decision on the grants, according to RDA consultants.
The West Lake Corridor project, with an estimated cost of $764 million, would extend commuter rail service nine miles from Hammond to Dyer. The project is currently under review by the FTA for advancement to the next phase of the federal grant process that would pay half the project's cost. That decision is expected early next year.
The Double Track project would add 16 miles of track, four bridges and a variety of other upgrades between Gary and Michigan City. The RDA is currently working on the financing package for the $376 million project.