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
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.”