Transportation discussed at forum
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent September 13, 2012 3:04PM
Robert Alderman, district deputy commisssioner for the LaPorte District of the Indiana DOT, speaks during the Cross Border Breakfast at the Genesis Center in Gary, Ind. Thursday September 13, 2012. Leaders from Northwest Indiana and Illinois gathered to discuss transportation issues. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:52AM
GARY — The Peotone and Gary/Chicago International airports can exist together peacefully because there’s enough niches for both to fill, said two regional airport executives during the city’s Cross Border Breakfast at the Genesis Center on Thursday morning.
Susan Shea, director of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s division of aeronautics, used Boeing Corp.’s housing its fleet at Gary while its headquarters are in downtown Chicago as an example of cross-border cooperation already in action. As well, many big-box stores may find benefits in shipping to both airports instead of one or the other.
“We don’t need to be nibbling at each other’s slices of pie,” said Shea, who also said there’s $41 billion in aviation revenue in her state. “We need to make a bigger pie.”
John Clark III of JClark Aviation, consultant for the Gary airport, agreed, adding that the region as a whole becomes stronger when there’s more infrastructure plus it bolsters efforts by all to become a global marketplace.
“Having Gary, having Peotone, having all the other airports just makes markets more accessible,” Clark said.
Shea said the Peotone Airport is in planning stages at this point, and half the land for the inaugural runway has been procured.
The Cross Border Breakfast was billed as a discussion among 10 representatives in regional planning, air, rail, highway, water and infrastructure from Illinois and Indiana to determine the types of collaborations available and their benefits. Each made a 5-minute presentation on what is going on in their respective areas.
Robert Alderman, district deputy commissioner for Indiana Department of Transportation’s LaPorte District, said with the between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion investment of the Illiana Expressway, 9,000 immediate jobs will be available and 25,000 long-term jobs will come out of it as well as pollution abatement.
“This project will affect (both states) by relieving the congestion on (Interstates) 65 and 80/94,” Alderman said. “I’ve yet to hear a good reason against the Illiana.”
Forum moderator John Davies asked Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna when a bus system will be back in place. Hanna didn’t give specifics but said the issue isn’t a failure unless the region gives up and doesn’t come back to it.
“It needs to have long-term funding, and in order to get that we must realign how were going to run the system,” Hanna said.
Ivy Tech Community College Northwest partnered with the city of Gary and the Rainbow Push Coalition to put on the breakfast sponsored by the Dare to Dream One Region/One Vision Initiative, Ivy Tech, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was scheduled to speak but pulled out because of other commitments.