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NICTD reaches critical agreement with NIPSCO, 2nd RR for double tracking

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NICTD reaches critical agreement with NIPSCO, 2nd RR for double tracking

Last month the Board of Trustees of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), operator of the South Shore commuter line, voted to approve a tri-party agreement to advance the Double Track Northwest Indiana (DT-NWI) project, NICTD announced in a statement released Wednesday.

NICTD has nearly completed the documentation required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with its federal partner, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), under the Capital Investment Grant program.

As part of that documentation, a critical outstanding item was reaching an agreement with NICTD, the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (CSS), and the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) pertaining to the Bailly segment of track near the east entrance of ArcelorMittal on U.S. Highway 12. This section of track is bounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on one side and NIPSCO’s Bailly Generating Station on the other.

“This section of railroad, which is shared by NICTD and our freight partner [CSS], is tightly constrained,” noted Mike Noland, president of the South Shore commuter line. “We needed to build our second track while avoiding any impact to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and we could not have done it without the cooperation of CSS and NIPSCO.”

The tri-party agreement involves an easement, some land acquisition, and the exchange of trackage, according to NICTD. “Each partyÑNICTD, CSS, and NIPSCOÑworked to make the deal happen because they each understand the benefits to the region once the Double Track NWI project is realized. The agreement also saves money, reducing the overall project cost by approximately $3 million.”

Nicole Barker, NICTD’s environmental lead, added that the deal also reduces the project’s overall wetland impacts even further. “NICTD, CSS and NIPSCO understand the sensitivity of the landscape we operate within, and are proud to finalize this agreement to advance the project while doing all we can to protect natural resources,” she said.

Chicago South Bend & South Shore Railroad, which had written a letter to the Federal Transit Administration outlining their objections to the previous design at the Bailly section during the Environmental Assessment public comment period in 2017, has formally retracted its objections as a result of the tri-party agreement, the statement said.

“The parties worked cooperatively to address the safety and operations concerns raised by CSS in its filing to FTA,” CSS President Todd Bjornstad stated. “We appreciate the efforts of NICTD and NIPSCO to facilitate a design that addresses the needs of all the stakeholders, including the public, in this project.”

“We recognize the significance and long-term regional benefits tied to this investment and we were pleased to play a role in identifying a solution that will help this project continue moving forward in the right direction,” NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris said.

The next step for the project is to work with the FTA to secure what is called a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which will be published once finalized for the public to review.

For more information about the Double Track NWI project, visit www.doubletrack-nwi.com

 

Visclosky still hopeful for Dunes National Park’

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, released the following statement after deadline on Thursday, in response to testimony by National Park Service Acting Director P. Daniel Smith, on the Department of Interior’s objection to re-designating Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore a “National Park,” as proposed by a bill, H.R. 1488, authored by Visclosky.

“Concerns expressed by agencies in the executive branch are not an uncommon step in the legislative process,” Visclosky said. “I remain optimistic that H.R. 1488, which is cosponsored by every Indiana Member of Congress and unanimously approved by the House, will become law and our lakeshore will get the long overdue recognition it deserves and further drive economic activity in our region.”

Among other things, in his written testimony before the Senate Energy and National Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Smith stated that Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is neither large enough nor diverse enough to be considered a national park; that it has more in common with the other three national lakeshores, Apostle Islands, Pictured Rocks, and Sleeping Bear Dunes, as well as with national seashores and recreation areas, than it does with the typical national park; and that the “current designation is appropriate for the unit and in keeping with our efforts to provide consistency in the naming of park units.”

 

USS to receive state tax credits, TIF in 750M capital investment in Gary Works

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson joined David B. Burritt, president and CEO of U.S. Steel Corporation (USS), on Thursday as USS announced plans to make significant upgrades at its Gary Works plant through a $750 million asset revitalization investment that will increase efficiencies and position the facility for long-term success in Indiana.

“Today’s news is a major step forward that will have a lasting positive impact on the city of Gary, the northwest region and the state of Indiana for years to come,” Holcomb said in a statement released after deadline on Thursday. “U. S. Steel has a rich history in Indiana, producing steel for customers around the world while providing quality career opportunities for Hoosiers and supporting their families here in northwest Indiana. We look forward to U. S. Steel’s continued success and growth right here in Gary.”

“We are pleased to be making this significant investment at Gary Works, which will improve the facility’s environmental performance, bolster our competitiveness and benefit the local community for years to come,” Burritt said. “Through the skill and determination of our employees, support from the state and city, without which this project would not be possible, and favorable trade policies with the strong Section 232 national security action on steel imports, we are experiencing a renaissance at U. S. Steel.”

“With the increases in investment due to U. S. Steel’s $2 billion asset revitalization program, a minimum of $750 million in capital investments will be made over five years to modernize and enhance the company’s flagship operation in Gary, through building expansion and improvement,” the statement said. “This includes the installation of new, state-of-the-art production equipment, machinery, and modernizing technology to better serve customers in the automotive, energy, industrial, metal building components, home construction, appliance and container industries.”

“There is no secret that U. S. Steel’s flagship is located in Gary,” Freeman-Wilson said. “We are pleased about this investment in the plant and even more encouraged by a deepened partnership with the company of the city’s origin. This is also consistent with our development plan which builds on our strong manufacturing history and allowing us to diversify commerce in the areas of education and medicine; recreation and gaming; logistics and technology.”

“We are extremely excited about the $750 million investment at U. S. Steel along the shoreline in Gary," Gary Common Council President Ronald Brewer said. “Today’s news couldn’t have come at a better time as we continue to persevere in the progress of our great city. This multi-million dollar investment demonstrates U. S. Steel’s renewed commitment to its workers and to the city of Gary, and we look forward to strengthening this relationship for the betterment of our great community.”

Subject to the approval of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors, the IEDC will offer U. S. Steel up to $10 million in conditional tax credits over a 10-year period based on the company’s commitment to retain 3,875 Hoosier jobs. This offer of tax credits is also subject to the review of the State Budget Committee. The IEDC will also offer up to $2 million in Skills Enhancement Fund (SEF) training grants to support workforce development and training for Gary Works employees.

In addition, Gary will offer tax increment financing valued at approximately $35 million over 25 years based on a $750 million investment that will then be ameliorated through a development agreement in partnership with U. S. Steel to allow the city, the Gary Community School Corporation, the Gary Public Library, and U. S. Steel to share the benefit of the company’s investment. “This incentive and economic development financing method, which is subject to the Gary Common Council’s approval, will help generate immediate tax revenue for the city, create a Community Development Fund to further economic growth, and increase the city’s partnership with U. S. Steel,” the statement said.

Gary WorksÑin operation in Northwest Indiana since 1908Ñis U. S. Steel’s largest manufacturing plant and the largest integrated steel mill in North America. Comprised of both steelmaking and finishing facilities, Gary Works has an annual raw steelmaking capability of 7.5 million net tons. The facility provides more than 3,800 full-time jobs and manufactures sheet products, strip mill plate in coils, and tin products.

USS is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., and is an integrated steel producer with major production operations in North America and Central Europe and an annual raw steelmaking capability of 22 million net tons. Founded in 1901, the company has been manufacturing steel for more than 100 years, providing a wide range of value-added steel sheet and tubular products for the automotive, appliance, container, industrial machinery, construction and oil and gas industries.

 

USW reports little progress in talks with ArcelorMittal USS

With two weeks remaining before its contract with ArcelorMittal expires, on Sept. 1, the United Steelworkers (USW) is reporting “little progress on core issues” in its latest communiquŽ, released this morning.

The text in full:

“Negotiations continued with ArcelorMittal this week in Pittsburgh, and as has been the case since our talks began, management continues to be slow to respond to our proposals while insisting on unnecessary and unreasonable concessionsÑparticularly in the area of healthcare.

“We have made little progress with regard to our reasonable wage requests, and the company still has not responded to our pension proposal or adequately addressed our concerns about future capital expenditures, the apparently diminishing emphasis on repair and maintenance spending, and manning issues, all of which are geared toward improving the long-term security of our jobs.

“ArcelorMittal has done very well from a financial standpoint, and should continue to enjoy favorable market conditions for the foreseeable future, according to nearly every credible economic forecast.

“Management likes to talk about the ‘viability’ and ‘sustainability’ of the corporation, but our negotiations are about much more than ensuring profits for the company.

“Our negotiating committee is dedicated to achieving a fair contract that improves the economic and retirement security of our membership and retirees along with the viability and sustainability of our lifestyles and our communities.

“Please continue to focus on working safely and standing together in unity.

“We will continue working diligently to engage management on these and all other outstanding issues as our contract expiration date approaches, and with your continued support and solidarity, we are confident in our ability to do so.

“We know that you have our backs, and as these negotiations proceed, we pledge to continue to have yours.”

USS

On Wednesday, the USW released this one-paragraph statement on the status of its contract negotiations with U.S. Steel Corporation (USS): “USS made a proposal today to cut retiree healthcare benefits, yet their executives feed at the trough. This is unfair and unacceptable!”

 

Two Iron Workers Local 395 members indicted

Two members of Iron Workers Local 395, headquartered in Portage, have been indicted in federal court on three counts of labor-related extortion offenses.

Thomas R. Williamson, 67, of Schererville, and Jeffrey R. Veach, 55, of Portage, were arrested on Thursday and each charged with one count of Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and two counts of Attempted Hobbs Act extortion.

Williamson and Veach had their initial court appearances and arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. Martin for the Northern District of Indiana and were released on $20,000 unsecured bond.

“According to the indictment, Williamson and Veach used threats of violence and actual violence against non-union ironworkers in the course of their extortion plot,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The defendants allegedly sought to extort a labor contract from ‘John Doe No. 1,’ who owned a steelworking company, and a business contract from ‘John Doe No. 2,’ who owned a construction company.”

The indictment was announced in Washington D.C., by Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II for the Northern District of Indiana; Special Agent in Charge James Vanderberg of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General’s Chicago Regional Office; and Special Agent in Charge Grant Mendenhall of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office.

The case is being investigated by the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General and the FBI with the assistance of the Dyer Indiana Police Department.

Chesterton Girls XC gets started on Saturday

By TR HARLAN

The Chesterton girls cross country team sent a handful of runners to North Carolina this summer and the dividends have shown in pre-season workouts.

The Trojans open the 2018 season at the NIC Stomp at New Prairie on Saturday with high hopes.

“We have had a solid summer of training and the Varsity girls' recent workouts are evidence,” Chesterton coach Maggie Wolgamot said. “We are excited for this season and are in hot pursuit of once again making the trip to Terre Haute this fall for State.”

The top four returning runners benefited from a trip to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina this summer and have returned in top form.

“Shelby Bullock, Nalani Malackowski, Kara Krol and Taylor Edwards, along with freshman Bailey Ranta, appear to round out the top five,” Wolgamot said. “Senior Becca White is right up there with them.”

Depth should be an aid for the Trojans with the emergence of Frances Clancy, Peyton Westphal, Kaitlyn Van Kley, Libby Boster and Kayla Kirchner also competing for varsity spots.

“As most know, anything can happen when it comes down to the nitty gritty races,” Wolgamot said. “Considering the current state of our team, I am optimistic that it will be another exciting season for Chesterton.”

Trojan Volleyball falls at Munster

The Chesterton volleyball team dropped a 25-17, 25-17, 25-15 decision at Munster on Thursday night.

Offensively, Taylor Bowser led the Trojans with eight kills, while Meghan Gaffigan added six kills. Ariel Rohe (3), Caroline Parks (2) and McKenna Guernsey (2) also contributed to the attack.

On the service line, Parks and Lorann Lombardini each had one ace.

Defensively, Sammy Devereaux had a team-high five digs with Lombardini tallying four digs. Vivi Smilgius and Parks each had two digs.

At the net, Parks had two block kills, while Bowser added one.

The Trojans return to the court on Monday when they travel to Andrean for a 5 p.m. junior varsity start.

Munster 25-25-25, Chesterton 17-15-15

AT MUNSTER

Chesterton -- Meghan Gaffigan 6 kills, 1 dig; Vivi Smilgius 1 ace, 2 digs; Taylor Bowser 8 kills, 1 block kill; Caroline Parks 2 kills, 1 ace, 2 digs, 2 block kills; Ariel Rohe 3 kills, 1 dig; McKenna Guernsey 2 kills; Sammy Devereaux 5 digs; Lorann Lombardini 1 ace, 4 digs; Maris Robinson 1 kill, 1 dig.

Record: Chesterton 1-1.

CHS Boys Cross Country begins Saturday

By TR HARLAN

Gone are the top two runners over the last four years, but don’t feel sorry for Tim Ray.

The Chesterton boys cross country coach returns enough experience to leave his team competitive in the Duneland Athletic Conference and a chance at another trip to the State Finals.

“We bring back some experience, but they’ve never led before,” Ray said as he team prepares to open the season at the NIC Stomp at New Prairie. “The guy who was our MVP the last four years is gone and the guy who ran second isn’t here either. We have some guys with an opportunity to step up into a leadership role.”

Senior Nathan O’Connor was the Trojans No. 2 finisher in the State Finals last season and should assert himself as the top guy this year.

“Nathan O’Connor had taken the lead right now,” Ray said. “He had a great summer and some guys are just following his lead. Will Shook, Matthew Van Kley, Matthew Streeter and Kenny Erow would be our top five right now.”

While O’Connor continues to push to the front, it may be a ‘pack’ mentality for the Trojans this year.

“I’m not quite sure if we’ll have a true front runner just yet,” Ray said. “Nathan is heading in that direction. He was our No. 2 guy at the State Meet last year and had a fantastic spring in track.”

A group of five more will push for a spot in the varsity line-up.

“Adam Juestel, Ethan Mohoi, Dylan Draves, Austin Johnson and Kyler Hynes are the next group,” Ray said. “We had a four-year drought where I don’t think they understood what it took to get to the next level. The past two years, the guys have understood.

“I think the seniors know what it takes and know how to finish races.”

In a loaded DAC, the Trojans should be in the mix.

“There are three teams that are better than everybody else on paper,” Ray said. “We could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the DAC and that’s good enough to give you a chance on Semistate day to get to State. It’ll be a battle for the last couple of spots.”

 

 

County Highway Department proposes return to in house chip and seal

By LILY REX

The Porter County Highway Department has proposed that the County acquire the equipment necessary to chip and seal County roads without hiring an outside contractor in a purchase that would total $750,000.

Highway Department Supervisor Rich Sexton and Assistant Supervisor Jim Polarek brought the presentation before the Porter County Board of Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday. Sexton reported that Porter County used to do its own chip and seal on County Roads, but a previous administration opted to move toward using contractors when the equipment started to reach end of life rather than replacing it.

Sexton was prepared to show return on investment. “This equipment’s eventually gonna pay for itself,” he said, adding that the County would recoup its expenditure on new equipment in six years or less just by not having to pay contractors for road preservation.

With this purchase, the timeline, including start and end dates, of chip and seal is up to the County rather than at the convenience of a contractor, and it allows for better quality control, according to Sexton.

Chip and sealed roads have a lifetime of five years, Polarek said. Paving over a chip and seal road requires going back to the base and establishing a stronger foundation for the road. Sexton said this equipment would also allow the Highway Department to add to the base of the roads.

To be self-sufficient for chip and seal, the County would need a new asphalt zipper and chip spreader. Sexton threw in a mower that fits under guardrails for more efficient maintenance, especially on bridges, where he says some of his employees have to use individual weed eaters.

The asphalt zipper mounts on a front loader, which the County already has one of in each district. The asphalt zipper also allows for the addition of lime stabilization to form a harder and more durable road. Sexton said the use of the asphalt zipper by an outside contractor cost $26,000 last year, and adding lime stabilization would have required the intervention of yet another company. The last chip spreader the County owned was a 1989 model. Sexton reports that Porter County spent $91,017.24 to preserve 22.56 miles of road this year.

Money from the bridge fund would contribute to the purchase of the guardrail mower. Sexton also thinks that County-done chip and sealing uses fuel tax dollars more efficiently. Polarek said the Highway Department receives a share of federal funding each month, and even though he and Sexton have budgeted to keep a reserve of around $200,000 in the Highway Department’s coffers at all times, there will be enough money to fund the purchase. At the time of the meeting, they asked for an additional appropriation to earmark $750,000 for the chip and seal equipment, which the Board approved.

Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said, “This is an investment in ourselves. Money that we already have, it’s a no brainer.” Blaney also noted that paving inconveniences residents, and not needing a contractor can reduce construction time. Sexton said his plan is to do 100 miles of road preservation next year and going forward, but his crews won’t be in one place long.

Sexton says Newton County takes advantage of having chip and seal equipment by starting as soon as possible, and Porter County can do the same. “As soon as the threat of a heavy freeze is gone, they’re out doing their roads.” Sexton says some roads could be done in four days from start to finish.

“We’re at the mercy of the subcontractors now. This way, we’re being proactive,” Good said, noting the Department would also have the freedom to widen the road and deepen the base. Good added, “If we have 816 miles of road in this County unincorporated, I think we need to be in this business,” Good said.

Traffic Study

The Board also approved a traffic study for U.S. 6 between Meridian Road and Calumet Avenue. Good clarified that this stretch is the last section where U.S. 6 is a two-lane road in Porter County, starting by Sunset Hill Farm County Park and passing Ind. 49 and the hospital.

The traffic study is intended to convince state representatives, who maintain U.S. 6, that that section of road should be widened. Under the five-year plan for that area, the state has not listed widening that section. Having analytics will help convince them.

The Board approved a contract with American Structurepoint for $22,120 for the traffic study. Good noted that the Highway Department can conduct its own traffic studies, but the County has to bring in an outside firm that the state trusts for the results to have any pull.

Good said, “It’s becoming a very, very busy corridor, so we need to get some relief up there,” while Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, pointed out that the two-lane road limits economic growth by limiting further development near the hospital.

 

South Shore donating car to SBFD for training

As part of its ongoing commitment to safety, the South Shore commuter line is donating an out-of-service train car to the South Bend Fire Department Training Center to enhance rescue crew responses to railroad service emergencies, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District announced in statement released today.

The train carÑweighing approximately 134,000 pounds and standing 85 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 15 feet highÑwill be moved on Friday, Aug. 17, via crane and flat-bed semi from the South Bend Washington Street train station to the South Bend Fire Department Training Center.

“We greatly appreciate the opportunity to partner with South Bend Fire Department to aid in the training of first responders,” said Michael Noland, president of the South Shore commuter line. “Although our safety record is excellent, we remain focused on passenger safety, and familiarizing first responders with our cars improves preparedness.”

“The use of this train car will allow multiple agencies including police, fire, and utility services to collaboratively work together in an emergency situation,” South Bend Fire Chief Stephen Cox said. “The City of South Bend will serve as a central location for future multi-agency training scenarios.”

The training center currently trains first responders from all over Northern Indiana, including East Chicago, Michigan City, LaPorte and South Bend. “In order to ensure the safest, most efficient responses, the crews will train on accessing the car and safely rescuing train passengers during crisis situation,” the statement said. “Incidents of this nature may include derailments, fires, train/car collisions, and other in-service emergencies.”

 
 
 
 

 

 

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