The Senate Appropriations Committee today approved funding to upgrade and expand South Shore commuter rail in Northwest Indiana. While there are still several weeks of conference committees and conversations to go, the initial approval of state participation in the project is a major step forward. To all our legislators, friends and supporters who have worked so hard to get the region to this point, thank you very much.
As currently written, the State of Indiana would invest $6 million annually over the next 30 years to fund construction of the West Lake Corridor.
If enacted into law, the state money and locally-generated RDA funds, along with income tax revenue contributed by region communities, will create the $17.5 million annual local match required for the federal government to pay half the cost of the $571 million commuter rail project.
"I am extremely pleased that Senator Kenley and the Appropriations Committee have recognized the value of this project, not only for Northwest Indiana but for the state," said state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso. "It's clearly an investment for the state that is going to reap benefits well into the future."
Currently, commuters who use the existing South Shore line and ChicaGo Dash buses to travel to jobs in Chicago bring back a combined $430 million in personal income annually to spend on goods and services here in Northwest Indiana. Building the West Lake Corridor would result in an additional $231 million in personal income for the regional economy.
The benefits of expanded connectivity to Chicago will flow throughout the region. A 2013 study commissioned by the American Public Transportation Association and the National Association of Realtors found that residential home sale prices were on average 42% higher during the Great Recession in neighborhoods with proximity to transit versus further away.
Specific to Chicago, the study found that the average sale price of a residential property in the transit shed outperformed the overall market by about 30%. The study also found that those living close to transit options spent less on transportation, and had access to twice as many jobs, as those living outside the reach of transit.
Stronger commuter links to Chicago will also help attract new companies and new jobs to Northwest Indiana. Today, the region lags behind the rest of the Chicago market in terms of attracting new business investment. Last year, just 19 of more than 600 deals in the metro area were done in Lake and Porter counties. More commuting options will make us a more attractive and competitive region in which to start or relocate a business.