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Chamber Continues Push for South Shore Improvements at Airport

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Posted by: Jeff Rea
President and CEO
South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

The South Shore Railroad Airport Relocation Project remains a top priority of the business community and we believe it should move forward. The project is critical to our community’s efforts to attract and retain top talent. Ideally, we would like to see it completed in a time frame that aligns with the completion of the South Shore Double-Track project.

Both the station relocation and double-track projects will help our region accomplish the goal of a 90-minute South Shore trip by 2020. A 90-minute trip puts our region in a strong, competitive position with other Chicago suburbs. Indiana is well positioned to take advantage of a poor Illinois business climate, and the South Shore will become even a more important connection for people living west of our area coming to South Bend to work and those living here traveling west for work.

The Chamber is committed to seeing the South Shore’s South Bend station being at the South Bend International Airport.

That connection provides the most logical, safe, economical and convenient options for travelers coming to and from our region. The airport location of the South Shore station provides convenient options like parking, restrooms, concessions, as well as the ease of connections to buses, air travel and taxis. In addition, the safety and security of the airport has been a real asset, as people generally feel comfortable coming to a facility that is occupied by many people, is clean, well lit, and has adequate security.

For these reasons, we don’t believe it makes good economic sense to construct a new station near Bendix Drive as has been suggested. Plus, it’s hard to justify the added expense of acquiring land and designing and constructing a building when resources are tight. There are ongoing operational costs to consider as well, such as staffing, security, snow plowing, grass mowing and other maintenance and upkeep.

It is also suggested that even if a Bendix station was built, South Shore intends to continue to the airport. The Chamber has a difficult time wrapping our arms around how the community would benefit from having two stations so close together. It only creates confusion for consumers as they are deciding where to board the train.

The airport connection could open potential economic development opportunities around the airport, especially on the west side. The rail connection, added with the airport air-freight opportunities and the ease of truck access positions that area for future logistics operations seeking the benefits of a multi-modal facility.

The Chamber is sensitive to the concerns of the residents of the Ardmore neighborhood, who’ve spoken out about the airport station relocation. Though we’ve not seen a final route, we’re confident the consultants have taken great care in identifying a route that will minimize disruptions in the neighborhood. For those that will be disrupted, a very fair relocation process is in place to ensure those displaced residents are adequately compensated.

We are anxious for the city of South Bend to finalize the route selection from the consultant and move forward the process of relocating the necessary homeowners. We’re concerned that further delays will make it more difficult to align with the 2020 construction goal. We also are concerned that further delays could impact the city’s ability to tap into federal funds to assist with the project as we anticipate some significant federal dollars to be available for shovel-ready projects as the result of a new infrastructure bill from Congress in 2018.

If you have additional feedback for me, please send me an email at jrea@sbrchamber.com.

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