Chesterton Tribune



Local lawmakers tout benefits of South Shore line development bill

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Indiana House and Senate conferees reached agreement on Thursday on House Bill 1144, which would enhance economic development opportunities along the South Shore commuter line in Northwest Indiana.

Among other things, that bill would establish a rail transit corridor in Northwest Indiana, specify that both double-tracking and West Lake corridor extension would be officially considered “rail projects,” and would permit the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to establish transit development districts containing a train station or regular train stop within the corridor, including new stations or stops along the West Lake corridor.

In particular, the bill would authorize the use of tax increment financing moneys to provide both funds and financing for double-tracking and the West Lake corridor within designated TIF districts.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City, one of the primary conferees on HB1144, issued this statement late on Thursday:

“This is without question the biggest economic development effort of the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly, and the benefits it creates will be long and lasting for those who live and work in St. Joseph, LaPorte, Porter, and Lake counties. It has been the result of a lengthy negotiation involving a committed group of bipartisan officials at both the state and local level.

“Along with improving travel times along the line from South Bend to Chicago, it will provide an immediate boost to the economies of all the communities that have a South Shore stop, be they large or small. This is one of those rare projects that can have an impact upon cities and towns of all sizes, ranging from Michigan City to Chesterton to Beverly Shores. All boats can be lifted from the benefits contained in this bill. This is the living definition of a big tent.

“I can say House Bill 1144 offers the largest potential for an economic windfall for the area I represent that I have seen in my time in the Indiana House. It takes the natural transportation advantages offered by the South Shore and uses them in a first-of-its-kind plan to offer a coordinated economic development front to explore commercial and residential improvements. In its scope, the benefits of today's actions will be felt for decades to come across Northwest Indiana.”

Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Karen Tallian, D-Portage, another of the primary conferees, issued this statement:

“I live in a South Shore Line community, and I know first-hand of the benefits that come from this rail service. This is a great form of mass transit for the region as well as offers a boost to the quality of life for residents from South Bend to the state line.

“The ‘double tracking’ project will be great for Northwest Indiana. This is a commuter railroad and commute times are critical.

“The rail line has been operating for a century. These improvements are for the next 100 years.”

State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, who served as an advisor during negotiations, issued this statement:

“I believe that this is going to be one of the biggest job creation bills that Northwest Indiana and The Region have seen in at least a decade. The beauty of it is that it is not going to require any new or additional taxes from the people who live and work here. This will open the door for economic growth because the South Shore Railroad is being double-tracked to lower travel times. For those of us who have felt that so many efforts to improve economic development at the state level have been confined to Indianapolis and central Indiana, this is a giant step forward and a real breath of fresh air.”



Posted 4/21/2017




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