RDA approves funds for paratransit bus service
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org July 3, 2012 3:32PM
Updated: August 5, 2012 6:24AM
MERRILLVILLE — The Regional Development Authority on Tuesday approved $100,000 in local matching funds to continue paratransit bus service in Northwest Indiana for the next year.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission made the emergency request as an estimated 2,600 riders were left in the lurch when the Regional Bus Authority ceased services on June 30. Gary Public Transit Corp., East Chicago Transit, North Township Dial-A-Ride and Triple A Express will pick up the load.
The RDA investment constitutes 20 percent in local matching funds for the $400,000 in federal grant money.
RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna said the RDA is functioning as the “bank of last resort” for a project that’s out of its purview.
“It’s the least we think we can do,” Hanna said.
RDA board chairman Leigh Morris said he hopes the move doesn’t relieve the pressure on those who should be funding paratransit service.
“These folks are being held hostage by the lack of funding,” Morris said.
At an earlier working group meeting, the RDA board recommended that a $200,000 planning request by the town of Pines be forwarded to the board’s next regular meeting. The money would fund a comprehensive plan — regarding land use, utilities and economic development — that would help the town determine its place in the Marquette Plan.
“The town’s location is a very good opportunity for tourism, eco-tourism, birdwatching and bike trails,” Town Council president George Adey said. “But being such a small town, funding is limited.”
Pines webmaster Loukia Verhage said the plan will look at making U.S. 12 more of a scenic highway through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“We want to continue the dream of routing truck traffic onto U.S. 20,” Verhage said. “It will help preserve the beauty of the area.”