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Transportation Key To Northwest Indiana Jobs Say Experts

March 17, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Two recent news reports focus attention on Northwest Indiana’s transportation sector for future jobs growth in Lake county and Porter county Indiana.

Gary Airport Runway Extension

Earlier this month the Gary Airport board moved forward on some of the complicated land acquisitions they need to lengthen the main runway from 7,000 feet to 9,200 feet.  Re-routing several rail lines and an earthen berm are necessary for the site preparation. The longer runway is needed for larger planes and as a safety buffer in case of marginal weather and bad flight conditions.

For years the possibility of Gary becoming Metro Chicago’s third airport has been seen a key feature of the city’s economic recovery.  But success has been elusive. Experts and pundits alike have weighed in with suggestions, but passenger service with a major carrier has yet to take off. Funding such projects comes to the airport from the Regional Development Authority, who also has responsibility for other transportation projects such as municipal bus services. One Congressman, Rep. Chet Dobis, D-Merrillville, expressed concern that too much RDA money goes to “park projects” and shoreline restoration, while lower profile transit issues take a back seat.

Completion of the lengthened runway will allow the airport to finally become a serious player capable of handling all sizes of commercial jets.

Call To Action On High Speed Rail

GermanEuroTrain_byRobertSchlesinger_SteveCardwellWhile the countries of Europe and Asia are moving at full throttle to build up continental networks of high speed rail, American governors in contrast,  remain paralyzed to climb aboard. As one of the pivotal states in this national issue, the controversial debate came to Chesterton Indiana in late February as US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood came to deliver the keynote address at a conference sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Forum and Valparaiso Indiana Economic Development leaders.

The “Rail Delivers Jobs” conference in Chesterton, was described by The Times newspaper correspondent, Keith Benman as “an impassioned pitch to become partners with the Obama administration”. Emphasizing how critical is Indiana’s role in this long range endeavor, Secretary LaHood is quoted by the Times explaining to business leaders, “If Indiana gets its act together, you could be a dominant player in this plan in this region of the country”.

For those following this issue, an $8 Billion portion of the economic recovery stimulus money was made available by the federal government for high-speed rail development. But the funds are conditional on states providing matching funds. Some states have agreed to take part in the program, but other states have balked, turning down the grants, and saying their economy’s are too stressed to participate. With Wisconsin and Ohio being among the dropouts, it leaves Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan in an awkward position. The goal of a Minnesota to Ohio regional route has problems without Wisconsin and Ohio participating.

With freight rail traffic in Indiana expected to double by 2035, the transportation corridor through Lake and Porter counties, and the critical importance our region plays nationally cannot be ignored. Governor Daniels, who is regarded by pundits as a GOP presidential contender, is in the spotlight to make the correct decision but his endorsement of rail projects are not clear.

So part of Secretary LaHood’s mission is to keep the heat on Governor Daniels to get on a more committed and progressive track. The freight business is the big dog and the railroads and the economy have their own dictates. Cities who have existing rail facilities and trained work force will have the most to gain: Hammond, Gary, Portage, Griffith, Chesterton, and Burns Harbor come to mind.

Crossroads of the Nation was once a State tourism slogan. More trucks, trains, and airplanes sound inevitable. Share your comments on Indiana’s future in the logistics business and what it means for our local economy and quality of life.

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Steve Cardwell

Steve Cardwell is an Indiana Realtor working with residential buyers and sellers throughout Northwest Indiana. He likes to stay current on the housing market by analyzing real estate trends with a focus on the towns of Highland and Munster Indiana. His broker affiliation is Red Key Realty Leaders in St John, Indiana. Learn more about Steve and visit www.SteveCardwell.com.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Transportation Key To Northwest Indiana Jobs Say Experts”
  1. Northwest Indiana is definitely a high traffic corridor for trains, trucks and automobiles. Unfortunately, much of the business that passes on our roads and rails is doing just that…passing through. It is not until we can get world class businesses to think of the Region as a true logistics hub that we can become an incubator for long-term sustainable economic development and growth. I honestly do not believe we need to create more corridors of traffic unless it brings real business to the area.

  2. Anyone who has travelled Europe by train knows how convenient it is… But building such a transcontinental high-speed rail network in America would be a very expensive undertaking. It may be worth it in the long-run, but we need to plan very carefully to make sure we do it right from the get-go.

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