10 May 2017

$1.6B transportation plan moves to full commission

South Shore News

PORTAGE — The biggest four-year transportation plan in Region history will be up for adoption next week by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. The commission's planning committee approved it Tuesday. The 2018-21 Transportation Improvement Program lists about 650 potential projects with a total estimated cost of almost $1.6 billion, NIRPC Transportation Projects Manager Gary Evers told the Technical Planning Committee. "This is the biggest TIP we've ever done. This is the big kahuna," Evers said.

Major projects in the TIP — the document listing planned projects that will receive federal funding — include the Northern Indiana Transportation District's Double Track and West Lake Corridor projects. A variety of other potential South Shore Line projects in the TIP include work at each end of the commuter rail line — addition of a track at Millennium Station in Chicago, and a new station at the South Bend International Airport.

Other notable projects in the TIP include two sponsored by the National Park Service, Evers said. The NPS plans intersection improvements on County Line Road and replacing a pedestrian bridge to the Paul Douglas Center in Miller. Among a long list of Indiana Department of Transportation-sponsored plans are the addition of turning lanes on U.S. 20 in Michigan City in the area of Evergreen Plaza, and on U.S. 41 in St. John from just north of Lake Central High School to 77th Avenue.  Approval of the TIP is happening at the same time that the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan is being amended to include the two major NICTD projects and push back the timeline on the dormant Illiana Expressway.

All three required studies confirming they adhere to federal air quality and social justice rules. Those also were approved by the Technical Policy Committee on Tuesday and referred to the commission's Executive Board, which meets May 18. Public comments collected this spring focused on the South Shore projects and ran the gamut from outright opposition to enthusiastic support. None of the comments prompted changes in NIRPC's studies.

NICTD staff member Joe Crnkovich, a member of the Technical Policy Committee, noted the railroad's ongoing effort to get applications for federal funding to the Department of Transportation in late summer. He thanked NIRPC staff for completing their studies "on short notice." "Everybody in this building really hustled to get this out on time," Crnkovich said.

 Article by Andrew Steele - NWI Times. Click here to see the article on NWI Times.