(STATEHOUSE) September 18, 2007 - State Representative Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) voiced his support on the need for expanding the South Shore Commuter Railroad to Valparaiso and Lowell at the September 17, 2007 Tax and Finance Hearing.
According to Rep. Soliday, "Now is the time to begin the expansion of the South Shore rail lines. Investing in commuter rail strengthens our economy. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority's "Comprehensive Economic Development Plan" claims the 'expansion of commuter rail will have a large and lasting impact on the Northwest Indiana economy' and predicts a net gain in employment of more than 26,000 job during the life of the project."
When it comes to daily commuters, Soliday noted a 2004 survey conducted by Cypra &Associates, which found that South Shore commuters return in excess of $230 million in salaries and wages to Northwest Indiana.
"Providing access to high-paying jobs for Northwest Indiana residents through improvements to the South Shore is a top priority for the economic growth and continued development of Northwest Indiana," Soliday said.
In addition to bringing home a better paycheck, the commuter saves more money. A Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) analysis showed South Shore daily commuters save roughly 68 percent more than driving to Chicago because of high cost of fuel, parking and tolls.
Economic Development is integral to growth and stability in Northwest Indiana. Solid transportation systems attract new business and emerging industries to locate in Northwest Indiana. Transit oriented developments surrounding stations could revitalize communities and create new business partnerships between public agencies and private businesses. Though the main goal of the South Shore expansion is to connect our region with the Chicago Metro area, it opens doors for Chicagoans to enjoy our region's hospitality, festivals, beaches and events, adding to Northwest Indiana's economic and tourism growth.
"We have the opportunity to impact the geographic pattern of Chicago's growth in Northwest Indiana's favor," Soliday stated.
Cook County and Chicago will dominate the employment marker during the next 30 years, fueling greater demand for access to these job locations. With expanded rail service, Northwest Indiana will have a competitive edge for jobs in the Chicago Metropolitan area. As Northwest Indiana's population grows much faster than anticipated by the state and continues to outstrip previous trends, the demand for transportation improvements will not stop.
U.S. Congressman Peter Visclosky (D) spearheaded the presentation by providing key information related to the issues of jobs and economic development, environmental awareness, quality of life and access to Chicago, and available federal funding. Representative Ed Soliday, Senator Karen Tallian, and Representative Chet Dobis also provided testimony in support of the project.