Hammond may hop back on the proposed South Shore extension, but not at the level originally planned.
The Hammond City Council on Monday will consider a resolution that will conditionally commit the city to annually provide 15 percent of its share of Lake County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) revenue to the project over the next 30 years. The percentage amounts to about $450,000 a year, which is about 50 percent of the $900,000 per year that had been originally proposed in a 2016 resolution.
Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the new resolution was drafted following negotiations with representatives of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.
While less than called for in the original resolution, McDermott said the commitment still will be more than any other community is providing for the project. Gary, for instance, in 2015 had approved committing 7.5 percent of its share of CEDIT money toward the project, before later seeking to back away from that commitment.
McDermott said he felt it was right for the city to be the largest contributor since it is the largest city in the Region and will be getting the benefit of the new Gateway station. He said he didn't think the city should be contributing up to the 34 percent originally sought since the city already is obligated to provide $105 million in gaming tax revenue to the RDA over the next 30 years.
"I felt this was a very fair compromise," he said.
Bill Hanna, president and chief executive officer for the RDA, said the goal will be to build the best possible project with the funding available.
"It's a very positive thing to have some clarity and finality on the budget," he said.
The reduced amount, though, could impact some areas such as the rate that transit oriented development is constructed around the stations and impact some design elements, according to Hanna.
"There's definitely an impact," he said.
McDermott compared the negotiations to a game of "high stakes poker" and ultimately wanted to make sure he locked in the city to get the Gateway station along with the rail yard maintenance facility. He said if his bluff was called and the Gateway station was not located in Hammond, he would never forget it the rest of his life.
Hanna said he is quite sure the Gateway station would not be built without Hammond's financial commitment.
NITCD General Manager Michael Noland said the Gateway Station wasn't part of the original funding package. While it will be a little tougher to do the project since they don't have the funding they originally thought they were going to get, he is confident the West Lake extension will be built.
The resolution says the Hammond contribution will be contingent upon location of the Gateway station in Hammond and the inclusion of the rail yard maintenance facility. Payment also will not commence until award of the Federal Transit Authority funding for the project.
The resolution does not mention the construction of a South Hammond station that is proposed at approximately 173rd Street and Lyman Avenue. McDermott said if that station is built it will be up to the NICTD. McDermott issued a release earlier stating that the city does not support the South Hammond station as a stop on the Westlake Corridor expansion. He said the neighborhood is fairly unified against that station, the 1,000-car parking lot and the traffic issues that could come with it.
When they approved the previous resolution last August, city officials said the two stations plus maintenance facility could result in about a $300 million investment in the city.