Visclosky continues push to fund transit grant programs

NWI Times

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, submitted written testimony the House Budget Committee on Thursday that said the Capital Investment Grant programs that would benefit the two major South Shore Line projects are his top budget priority for fiscal year 2019.

The Federal Transit Administration program could fund half of the West Lake Corridor rail extension and Double Track NWI improvements. The project costs are currently estimated at $665 million and $312 million, respectively.

"The Capital Investment Grant program is an integral component of creating economic growth in communities across our nation," Visclosky wrote in his testimony. "I believe that people today, when considering where they want to live, work or raise a family are looking at public transportation options."

He said businesses also look at public transportation options in choosing a location.

Commitments from the state, municipalities, counties and the Regional Development Authority will make up the balance of construction and financing costs.

"We have made great strides in Northwest Indiana because of the bipartisan commitment from local officials, state officials, businesses and nonprofit organizations," Visclosky wrote. "And we cannot allow this progress to go for naught."

Visclosky offered similar testimony to an Appropriations subcommittee last month. In both, he argued "we are creating a model in Northwest Indiana for how to maximize the potential of taxpayer dollars and make transformational investments that will grow regional economies."

"I want people to be able to look at Northwest Indiana and say this is how we garner bipartisan support from all levels of the community and the federal government," Visclosky wrote. "This is how we attract new people, new businesses, and new jobs through public transportation infrastructure investments, and this is how we improve the lives of all current residents in a community and for future generations."

Congress appropriated about $2.6 billion for the Capital Investment Grant program in the fiscal year 2018 budget — approximately $300 million more than provided for in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, the five-year transportation plan covering fiscal years 2016-2020.

Earlier this week, the FTA posted funding allocations for the current budget, with 14 projects slated to receive about half the $2.6 billion. The agency's announcement noted that it "will publish additional FY 2018 Capital Investment Grants allocations in the future."

Region officials have said the 2018 grants can help the South Shore's projects by advancing others, ahead of it in the pipeline, through the competitive process.