If the train is a fixed cost, why would cities and towns commit a percentage of revenue? RDA plan makes it clear that money will go toward condos in Munster, Hammond and Gary
February 14, 2017-In 2014 Congressman Visclosky returned to the region for the first time in years. He visited local city and town councils, hat in hand, asking for contributions for his West Lake rail project. Despite protests from residents throughout the region, municipality after municipality bowed to the threats and coercion of the Congressman and committed a percentage of their local tax revenue to the plan. At the time, Congressman Visclosky talked about the South Shore train, jobs in Chicago and growing local population. What he didn’t talk about was condos in Munster or new roads in Hammond. According to the RDA Comprehensive Strategic Plan, a large portion of the contributions by Lake Station, Winfield and Schneider will be going to just that.
- A Scheme to Defraud
The scheme to defraud began with asking for a percentage of the County Economic Development Income Tax (CEDIT) rather than a fixed amount. After all, the cost of a train extension is a fixed cost-currently estimated to be $615M. The $315M local share of the project will be paid for by a bond and according to estimates will cost approximately $525M after bankers get their share. The State of Indiana is kicking in $6M per year and Gary, Hammond, East Chicago and Lake County each will pay $3.5M per year from casino revenue for thirty years. That totals $20M, more than enough to cover the approximately $17.5M needed annually.
Lake County agreed to provide 25% of CEDIt revenue for 30 years to the project. A the time it was widely reported that would be $2M per year, or $60M. Given the current state of Lake County Public Schools, Congressman Visclosky was confident that no one would notice that the CEDIT revenue would increase every year, providing a windfall the Regional Development Authority. In 2014, Lake County’s share of CEDIT revenue transferred to the RDA was $2.15M. By 2016, that amount had grown to $2.4M. Total CEDIT revenue in Lake County grew by about $2M, providing an extra $1M to the RDA before construction even began on the Westlake Extension. Over 30 years, the growth will provide many times the original pledges for every city and town that has signed on.
Now the RDA has unveiled its updated Strategic Comprehensive Plan. The Plan calls for billions of dollars in expenditures around the train station areas. At a recent meeting with Munster residents, NICTD President Michael Noland stated “the West Lake doesn’t work” without the TOD.
Lake Station, Merrillville, Crown Point, Winfield and other towns may wish to re-evaluate their commitments to building roads and condominiums in Munster, Hammond and Gary as they evaluate their own infrastructure needs for the next 30 years.
UP Next: Visclosky’s Deception: Actual Fraud in Griffith
Please view our entire series on Regional Transformation-West Lake Extension and Transit Oriented Development