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Griffith takes cautious approach to South Shore aid

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky standing addresses constituents during Tuesday night Town Council meeting. Visclosky would like see Lake County communities

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, standing, addresses constituents during the Tuesday night Town Council meeting. Visclosky would like to see Lake County communities pledge $8 million in CEDIT funds to the rail expansion project before March 31. | Michelle L. Quinn/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 20, 2014 6:37AM



GRIFFITH — Any money the town might give toward extending the South Shore Railroad commuter line to the Munster/Dyer area won’t be released until all other funding mechanisms are in place.

The town council has yet to decide what, if any, percentage of its County Economic Development Income Tax money will go toward the projected $571 million commuter line expansion. But council members do agree that the money will stay in town until commitments have been made.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, spoke before the council at its Tuesday night meeting in support of the expansion, which would run along the Monon Corridor owned by the Northern Indiana Commuter Train District. Bids for the environmental study will be announced by NICTD in the next couple weeks, anticipated construction is set for 2020 and the new line would be operational by 2023, Visclosky said.

The local match for Lake County’s communities is $285.5 million, of which Visclosky would like to see $8 million committed, or 34 percent of each communities’ CEDIT money, by March 31. If $8 million isn’t committed, he said he will move on to concentrate on other projects.

So far, Munster has dedicated 34 percent of its CEDIT funds, or $279,623; Highland 20 percent, or $114,883; Hobart 18 percent, or $171,000; Whiting 25 percent, or $101,892; and Lake County 25 percent, or $2.14 million.

Town Council President Glen Gaby, R-1, said he’d favor putting the money in an escrow account until such time that all local funding is ready to go.

“We’re not against the expansion at all,” added Council Vice President Rick Ryfa, R-3. “Perhaps we can pro-rate the amount of money based on the proximity to the expansion.”

Griffith, which has yet to see any CEDIT money, will earmark $396,948 for infrastructure and economic development — 75 percent to street work and 12.5 percent apiece to economic development and capital spending. With the South Shore contribution, the town’s economic development percentage would be adjusted.

If that occurs, Griffith may issue a bond to finance 20 miles’ worth of street repairs and use a combination of tax-increment financing, CEDIT funds and stormwater money to pay it back. The village has yet to receive from its financial consultants the exact costs of taking that route.

“We have lots of roads that need repairing, some of which haven’t been repaired in 50 or 60 years,” Ryfa said of the new plan. ”If we wait 10 years to fix these roads, we’ll have a train expansion but no one living here because the town will be so run down.”



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