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NWI vies with six others for Regional Cities grant
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NWI vies with six others for Regional Cities grant

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Seven regions around the state have submitted Regional Cities Initiative applications to the state, competing for $42 million in seed money for projects totaling $3.78 billion overall.

Among those applications are Northwest Indiana's, where the Regional Development Authority is spearheading a drive to cut train times on the South Shore, promote transit-oriented development and revitalize Indiana Dunes State Park.

RDA CEO Bill Hanna said officials in Northwest Indiana remain convinced their application, centered on cutting South Shore commute times to Chicago, is a competitive one.

"I see all the other concepts and I think there are strong ideas in play," Hanna said. "But the whole idea of tapping into Chicago is very compelling."

A core component of the RDA's proposal would consist of double-tracking the South Shore commuter railroad between Gary and Michigan City, which would dramatically cut commute times, according to railroad operator Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

In all, the Northwest Indiana application calls for attracting total investment of $509.4 million for its projects.

Right next to Northwest Indiana, the North Central region has proposed undertaking $731.5 million in projects, including initiatives with the University of Notre Dame and revitalizing the abandoned Studebaker auto plant area in South Bend.

"With these tremendous visions for the future of our communities, I am confident that Indiana’s dedication and commitment to quality-of-place initiatives will establish our regions as global destinations, attracting top businesses and top talent to fill the jobs we continue to create in the Hoosier State," Gov. Mike Pence said.

A strategic review committee set up by Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state's commerce agency, will review all the proposals and recommend grant-winners to the corporation's board of directors sometime in the fourth quarter. It is expected two $42 million grants will be given.

The main criteria used to judge the applications will be how well they promise to deliver on the state's goals of creating jobs, growing population and attracting talented people to Indiana.

The grants are being funded out of money that is expected to be pulled in from a tax amnesty program.

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