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The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority's board has committed up to $20 million to fund the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's (NICTD) development phase for the West Lake Corridor expansion project.At a meeting late last week, the board approved the funding, as well as a plan to begin negotiations with consulting firm KPMG for a study of transit-oriented development (TOD) best practices to enable the region to maximize the benefits of an expanded commuter-rail connection to Chicago.The study's cost is not to exceed $475,000, which includes a $150,000 grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., according to the authority's press release.Also last week, the board received an update to its Comprehensive Strategic Plan, which lays out a road map for rail expansion and TOD planning and development in northwest Indiana.The updated plan details the cost, benefits, and fiscal and economic impacts of commuter-rail expansion. Among the findings:• Construction of the West Lake Corridor and double-tracking the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City will support 2,000 construction jobs during the construction period from 2018 to 2022. Together, the improvements to the South Shore system are projected to create about 5,700 permanent jobs in Lake and Porter counties by 2046.• The West Lake Corridor will increase the South Shore's daily ridership from about 14,500 now to more than 21,000. Completion of the double-tracking project will boost ridership to over 24,000.• The economic activity generated by the commuter-rail investments will produce additional revenue for the State of Indiana – more than four times the state's annual financial commitment within 20 years.
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