Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Visclosky asks state to find permanent funding for South Shore line expansion

Back To Front Page

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, R-1st, testified on Thursday before the Indiana General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Assessment and Solutions, on “the need to establish a permanent non-federal source of matching revenue to expand the South Shore Line to Lowell and Valparaiso.”

Visclosky believes that such an “investment in opportunity will generate a new future and lure the next generation of Hoosiers to stay and move to Northwest Indiana.”

An excerpt from Visclosky’s remarks:

“Between 1970 and 2010, the entire population of the United States of America saw a growth of 51.7 percent, from 203 million people to 308 million people. Over that same time period, the population of Lake County, Indiana, decreased by 9.2 percent, from 546,000 individuals to 496,000 individuals. Also between 1970 and 2010, Lake County saw a decrease of 12.9 percent of its median income per year, from $56,776 in 1970 to $49,443 in 2010. Lake County also saw a 42.3 percent increase in its median age, from 26 years old in 1970 to 37 years old in 2010. Porter County and LaPorte County have better stories, as their incomes and populations have increased, but their median ages are increasing as well.

“Why is this so? Why is there waning growth and vibrancy from our predecessors’ investment in opportunities? Has it been because of a lack of resources? No. We are on the shore of the largest body of fresh water in the world. We are intersected by four interstate highways and two U.S. highways that travel across our country. Freight rail from the East Coast passes through Northwest Indiana on its way west, and we are in the environs of Chicago and its $500 billion economy and 4 million jobs. . . .

“But today, Lake County is fewer, poorer, and older. What is lacking? I believe the answer is connection. We need to invest in the thread that will weave through Northwest Indiana and connect all our efforts and natural abilities. We need connection through a meaningful mass transportation system in Northwest Indiana. We need connection through the expansion of the South Shore Line. . . .

(C)onsider Chicago’s economy, which is larger than the economy of Sweden. One reason for its economic dominance is because there are 410 miles of commuter rail lines in Illinois emanating from the Chicago Loop. Attached to this testimony is a Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District map that shows these Illinois rail lines. It also shows the one line to the Chicago Loop from Indiana, with its 35 miles of commuter rail from the Illinois border to Michigan City. Chicago knows the value of commuter rail, as its planning documents call for 75 percent of their resident homes to be within walking distance of public transit by 2040. Chicago’s average job pays 38 percent more than a job in Northwest Indiana, and we need to facilitate the movement of people to those jobs. We need to have expanded South Shore service so that young, talented people realize that Northwest Indiana, with our affordable housing and low tax rates, and with access to the economy, culture, sports, and entertainment of Chicago, is the place to live, raise a family, and yesŃinvest in new jobs. . . .

“The cost of expanding the South Shore Line to Dyer, as a first leg, in 2011 was estimated to be $464.4 million, and 50 percent of which is to be provided through a return of your federal tax dollars. Since Fiscal Year 2010, the federal government has spent nearly $11 billion each year on transit oriented development projects across the country. That is your money, and it is currently going to Illinois Chicagoland stations, like the stations at Prairie Crossing and Arlington Heights, and commercial development and residential properties are following that money. We need to bring these federal dollars to our own transit system, and that starts with a permanent non-federal match. . . .

“Young people today simply are not driving as much, and we must recognize that preference. According to a report released by U.S. PIRG this past May, young people today are more likely to want to live in urban areas and are more open to non-driving forms of transportation than older Americans. Those between the age of 16 and 34 years of age drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than they did in 2001. Because of this trend demonstrated by our youth, while our total national population is expected to increase 29 percent by 2030, over that same time period the annual vehicle miles traveled is not expected to increase above 2004 levels. . . .

“(The) youth of Northwest Indiana, in many instances, leave our region to receive training in a particular craft or skill. Some nobly choose to serve our nation in the military. Others leave for higher education. Then most never return. . . .

“We need to find a way to fund the creation of the threadŃthe South Shore LineŃthat will weave together and connect all of our efforts, generate a new future, and lure the next generation to stay and move to Northwest Indiana, so that someday people will remark on the Shining City on the Lake.”

 

 

Posted 9/17/2013