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South Shore Line

The South Shore Line

Streamlined and focused.

Those are words you want to hear when attempting to improve the status quo and bring transformative change and growth.

It's precisely what has happened with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's board.

Critics of the plan argue it amounts to a state takeover of local voices on the board.

They're wrong.

The Indiana Legislature and Gov. Eric Holcomb got this one right on the cusp of planned expansions to Northwest Indiana's commuter rail system.

In the 2019 legislative session, Indiana lawmakers passed a bill replacing NICTD's former 11-member board with a new five-member board of trustees.

The leaner board will consist of four elected officials from each of the counties touched by the South Shore Line commuter trains, and it will be chaired by the Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner.

So local voice is very much alive and well in NICTD — which is now more appropriately aligned with the state agency over transportation infrastructure.

On Tuesday, Holcomb announced his appointments to the board, and it's a balanced, bipartisan mix.

Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer, St. Joseph County Commissioner Andrew Kostielney and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will now join Indiana DOT Commissioner Jo McGuinness on the new board.

Freeman-Wilson's position will be short-lived. She recently lost the primary election to challenger Jerome Prince. So when 2020 begins, the governor will have to make a new appointment.

But at its heart, this new board will have a tighter focus on moving the commuter rail needle in a positive direction.

Northwest Indiana has put nearly all of the pieces in place to extend the South Shore Line from Hammond to Dyer and to eventually usher in double-tracking between Gary and Michigan City to speed commute times.

The Indiana General Assembly and governor also wisely have authorized another $205 million in state skin in the game to help leverage crucial federal funding for the projects.

The tighter focus of a smaller board is but the latest in wise preparation for the anticipated federal funding.

Critics who oppose the new NICTD board's makeup are being shortsighted.

The stakes are high in improving vital transportation infrastructure. Political turf squabbles should have no place on the itinerary.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.