NIRPC OKs transportation plan — pending attorney’s review
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2013 6:11PM
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:27AM
PORTAGE — The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission approved a transportation improvements plan for 2014 through 2017, though members of Everybody Counts protested its approval for failing to follow a federal court consent decree.
The plan lays out future construction projects throughout the region, both funded by local and state sources.
But although the plan went through a 30-day public comment period before approval by NIRPC’s Executive Board, it failed to comply with an additional 30-day notice to Everybody Counts.
NIRPC attorney David Hollenbeck asked the board Thursday to stipulate approval of the plan conditional to his review, along with amending and adopting the commission’s 2040 plan to include an air quality standards provision. Should he find the process conflicts with the consent decree, the transportation improvement plan will have to go through another 60 days of public comment, pushing its approval back to October.
Gary Evers, the transportation projects coordinator of NIRPC, told the commissioners that Hollenbeck’s opinion needs to be delivered as soon as possible.
“The sooner we get the opinion,” Evers said, “the sooner we can restart the clock.”
The plan was protested by members of Everybody Counts, who also pushed during public comment for more mass transit through the region. They contend the NIRPC staff failed to gather enough public input.
Yet David Wright of Gary Public Transportation said further delay with the plan could jeopardize mass transit’s ability to capture federal grant dollars.
Restarting the process could also effect current infrastructure projects in the works, said INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton.
“Anything that we’re starting within the next couple of months,” he said, “if there’s no plan, we can’t start working on it.”
NIRPC office stays in Portage
The personnel and finance committee met Thursday morning, deciding to stay at the current office location in Portage.
The recommendation also includes requirements of broadband Internet access to the facility by April 1, 2014, expansion for the office be completed in a timely manner and meet ADA requirements, and the rent costs be based on the space used by a per-square-foot price.
Joseph Cunningham of Gary criticized the commission because the location of the office does not allow poor citizens who rely on mass transit to participate in the meetings.
“People who benefit from transit can’t get out here,” he said.
The personnel and finance committee will also develop a policy to require a sergeant at arms from the host city for all full commission and executive board meetings, and ask for one at smaller committee and public hearings.