Lake agrees to South Shore funding agreement
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent July 12, 2014 4:28PM
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky
Updated: July 13, 2014 2:01AM
CROWN POINT — Enough Lake County Council members got on board with the expansion of the South Shore Line to get U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, his sought-after financial commitment.
Last week, the county council approved 4-2-1 the interlocal agreement between the county and the majority of its cities and towns that provides for local funding for the estimated $600 million expansion of the South Shore rail line to St. John.
Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, and Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, opposed the agreement. Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, was absent.
Total cost for the project is expected to run as high as an estimated $612 million. The federal government has committed $300 million in motor fuel tax dollars if a local match is secured.
The county has agreed to contribute 25 percent of its new 0.25 percent community economic development income tax not to exceed $2 million annually to the South Shore expansion. The other participating communities have committed a combined total of about $1.358 million. The Regional Development Authority has committed $8 million.
Some council members said the CEDIT money would be better spent on local roads and bridges. Councilman Jerome Prince, D-Gary, said the council passed the income tax to fund existing government services to avoid draconian cuts, not to pay for infrastructure.
“It was never the council’s intention to pass the CEDIT for roads and bridges,” Prince said.
Investing in the South Shore is a long-term commitment for the future of the county, he said.
“The benefit we have is not necessarily for today, but the future,” Prince said.
While the total amount agreed upon by all participants in the interlocal is not the 0.34 percent of each entity’s new CEDIT the congressman was seeking, Visclosky recently told the county council it was his belief the amount committed is enough for the federal government to agree to conduct the next step, an environmental impact study.
If the project does not move forward, communities will get back the money they committed to the expansion plus interest.