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South Shore board dismayed by proposed law to change members

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: February 27, 2013 6:13AM



Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation Board members bristled Friday at a bill filed by a Lake County lawmaker that reconfigures the makeup of the NICTD board giving Lake County mayors more clout.

The bill could scuttle an agreement between NICTD, which operates the South Shore commuter rail line, and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to develop a 15-year strategic plan to develop a business plan for the railroad.

Some NICTD members suggested the RDA was behind House Bill 1450 filed by state Rep. Mara Candalaria-Reardon, D-Munster.

The bill has been referred to the House Roads and Transportation Committee, chaired by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.

The bill would give membership on the NICTD board to mayors from Hammond, Gary, East Chicago and Hobart in Lake County and to Portage and Valparaiso in Porter County. Also, mayors from Michigan City, LaPorte and South Bend would hold seats.

The bill would remove representatives from county councils in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties from the NICTD board, along with representatives selected by the governor, South Shore riders and labor.

“It’s poor public policy,” said NICTD board member Mark Catanzarite, a St. Joseph County councilman, who chaired the NICTD board until Friday. “Frankly, it disappoints me that no one contacted me, nor anyone from the RDA.”

Catanzarite said he couldn’t see why the NICTD board would move forward with a strategic plan with the RDA now. Both groups approved the partnership last year for the proposed $500,000 study to explore expansion such as the West Lake corridor.

Catanzarite said when the NICTD board formed 35 years ago, it was done with deliberate representation. “House Bill 1450 doesn’t do that,” he said.

Candelaria-Reardon said she’s become impatient with the lack of progress on the West Lake corridor rail line that would link communities like Munster, St. John and possibly as far south as Lowell, to the South Shore.

“We’ll be competing soon with Indianapolis for federal transportation dollars and this is being driven as a forward-thinking approach and it’s not intended to antagonize anybody or anything,” she said.

“You look at the representation and it’s not evenly distributed to where ridership occurs.”

Candelaria-Reardon referred to her bill as “a starting point for the conversation.”

She compared the bill to last year’s bill by Soliday that reconfigured the Little Calumet River Basin Commission.

But even Lake County’s representatives on the NICTD board seemed surprised at the bill.

“I don’t understand how this legislation came about without input from this board,” said Christine Cid, a NICTD board member and Lake County councilwoman.

“The implication is the board doesn’t represent its ridership,” said Michael Repay, a new NICTD board member and Lake County commissioner.



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