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Did NICTD Just Threaten Hammond? South Shore May Build “Gateway” Station in Illinois?
Out of control Illinois bureaucrats running the show at NICTD share NWI Times article endorsing spending $300M in Hegewsisch instead of Hammond.
July 7, 2017-The Northwest Indiana Times Editorial Board on Sunday suggested that the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority would fund a $300M train station and maintenance facility in Hegewisch if Hammond did not commit $27M in CEDIT money to the West Lake Corridor project. NICTD, the operator of the South Shore Line, shared the article on its official West Lake Information news page. While NICTD sharing Times articles is nothing new-in fact that is about all the overpaid “public relations” people at NICTD and RDA do-this is worth mentioning because sharing the article seems to be an endorsement of the veiled threat against the residents of Hammond.
In a reply,Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. adequately addresses each point raised by the Times Op-Ed. We won’t rehash those points here but urge you to read that article. Chief among the points that Mayor McDermott makes is that Hammond leaders are not opposed to the West Lake project but that there are serious questions which need to be answered before such a large commitment is made. After all, Hammond is already being forced to give $105M in to the project under state law. Some who committed to the project early on are now regretting that decision as they scramble to find other ways to meet the needs of their citizens.
At issue is whether or not NICTD builds a gateway station and maintenance facility in Hammond. According to NICTD and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), the project would be funded by a combination of federal, state and local money. Congressman Visclosky went on a tour of each Indiana Municipality in 2015 and 2016 asking for 25% of the local option income tax to build the West Lake Extension. In addition, the State of Indiana has pledged $6M per year toward the project. The lion’s share of the money for the project-and for the RDA’s wasteful follies of the past ten years-comes from casino money that is taken from Lake County and Gary, Hammond and East Chicago every year. That amount totals $14M per year.
Out of Control Illinois Bureaucrats or Official NICTD Policy
We wanted to know whether or not there was an official plan to build the gateway station and maintenance facility in Illinois. NICTD is governed by a Board of Directors which has two Lake County representatives-Christine Cid and Mike Repay. Those representatives are accountable to the people of Lake County for the decisions and actions of NICTD employees. We reached out to NICTD and to Christine Cid and Mike Repay to ask if there was a plan to build the gateway station and maintenance facility in Illinois. Only Mike Repay replied and he stated he was not aware of any such plan. Commissioner Repay also stated:
The Hammond Common Council made a conditional resolution to fund the West Lake Extension. The NICTD Board met those conditions. As a member of the board and life long resident of Hammond, I feel strongly that the
city should and will honor their resolution. I believe Mayor McDermott’s comments reaffirmed that commitment which was never in doubt, in my mind.
Thus, the question remains: If the Board is not aware of any such plan, why would those accountable to the Board be sharing an article suggesting that the station would be built in Hegewisch? Shouldn’t they be screaming from the rooftops that they want to support the communities who have supported them and they would never consider taking $300M to another state? What about the RDA? To their credit, this was one Times opinion piece they did not share. Despite that, the people of northwest Indiana deserve reassurances from the RDA that they will not fund a $300M project in Illinois. The people paying the bill deserve to know whether this is a real possibility or is the Times Editorial Board just making things up.