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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has begun creation of of a blue ribbon panel to plan the next generation of Indiana's roads, rails, waterways and airports. That's our bread and butter in Northwest Indiana, so the panel needs representation from this slice of the state.

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Cathy Langham, president of Indianapolis-based Langham Logistics, are going to lead that panel.

They are under orders to identify priority projects for the next decade, as well as keeping tabs on innovations in transportation infrastructure.

Team, we've got a bridge to sell you -- Cline Avenue. You might have heard of it. It's the one then-Gov. Mitch Daniels promised would be replaced quickly when it was closed in 2009. It has been torn down, but we're still waiting for that new bridge.

It also must be rememebered that the bulk of the tolls collected on the Indiana Toll Road are generated in Northwest Indiana. Daniels' Major Moves program that has funded a large chunk of the I-69 construction in southwest Indiana was largely funded through Northwest Indiana folks. 

Keep in mind, too, that Portage has one of the busiest ports on the Great Lakes, and there's discussion this year of building another port in Gary.

Then there are the tens of millions of dollars being poured into the Gary/Chicago International Airport to put this potential economic engine in high gear. The state, through its contributions to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, has a major stake in this investment.

Don't forget the South Shore Line, which still provides passenger rail service between downtown Chicago and South Bend, with almost all of its riders boarding in Lake and Porter counties. This new blue ribbon panel should be aware of and assist in plans to extend South Shore service to Lowell and Valparaiso.

The Illiana Expressway is under intense discussion, too. It would become Northwest Indiana's first new expressway in half a century. This, too, is worthy of statewide notice.

Talk of starting high-speed rail service between Chicago and Detroit focuses on the heavy use of train tracks in Porter and Chesterton. Experience it for yourself by spending at hour or two at Centennial Park in downtown Chesterton. You'll understand.

Northwest Indiana is a major player in the logistics market in the Chicago metropolitan area, with virtually all surface transportation between the East Coast and Chicago being funnelled through Northwest Indiana.

Pence's  blue ribbon panel needs strong Northwest Indiana representation to plan effectively for investments that benefit not only Northwest Indiana, but the entire state as well.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.