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RDA to unveil local funding for South Shore extension

A NICTD South Shore Line tratravels eastbound 11th Street Michigan City Thursday Sept. 13 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

A NICTD South Shore Line train travels eastbound on 11th Street in Michigan City Thursday Sept. 13, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 8, 2014 6:25AM



Regional Development Authority officials today are expected to announce plans on how to fund a proposed South Shore train extension at their Friday afternoon board meeting — an effort that was supported by a short video released Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

The proposed eight-mile extension would connect Munster and Dyer with the existing line, which is estimated to cost $571 million, with possible future expansion to Lowell and Valparaiso.

The Federal Transit Administration could cover up to 50 percent of the cost, with local officials on the hook for the rest.

To avoid raising taxes, both Lake County and Munster officials have already committed some of their economic development income tax monies — with $2 million to $3 million from Lake County and $279,623 from Munster — toward the project.

RDA spokesman Dave Wellman said the group has been in discussions with several parties over the past year, including Visclosky’s office, Lake County, Munster, Dyer and Hammond.

“We’ve been trying to figure out ‘How do we make this work,’ ” Wellman said. “We’re following on the challenge the congressman issued to find a local funding match by March 31.”

That’s the final date to apply for federal matching funds.

Visclosky has supported the idea of a South Shore extension for years and he’s mentioned the project’s importance at several recent events.

“I believe that expanding the South Shore Rail Line is a transformational opportunity for Northwest Indiana. Join me in connecting our great region to the Chicago economy and investing in the next generation,” Visclosky said in a statement.

In the “South Shore Rail Extension: The Time is Now” video, Visclosky, McColly real estate agent Nancy Frigo and others talk of the disadvantages Northwest Indiana faces by lacking convenient public transit for those who commute to jobs in Chicago, particularly losing population to the Chicago suburbs.

“We can’t put this off until tomorrow,” Visclosky said. “The time to act is now. It is a generational imperative.”

The video is available on Visclosky’s YouTube channel.

Even with the current drive for funding, construction and funding is a long way off. Officials from the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District said construction could start in 2019, with service beginning in 2023, if there are no delays.



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