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Rail bill moves to Ind. House

(The Gary Post-Tribune published the following story by Carole Carlson on its website on April 2.)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Dennis Hodges has been waiting a long time but finally saw a little history in the making Tuesday.

He witnessed the state Senate approve a bill that designates state money for the first time for a high-speed rail network that would bring three routes to Indiana.

The amended bill now moves back to the House for consideration.

Itís only seed money to get Indiana in the federal funding pipeline, but Hodges, executive director of the Indiana High Speed Rail Association in Highland, thinks it s a good start.

"Itís the first step in bringing the state into the 21st century," said Hodges. "It could mean jobs, tourism and economic expansion. "

Chicago would be the hub of the proposed $4 billion, nine-state rail initiative.

The Gary/Chicago Airport would become a mini hub, home to air, rail and truck industries.

The bill requires the Indiana Department of Transportation to spend about $1.3 million for an environmental study.

The study would allow for 70 percent to 90 percent of the routes to be eligible for federal construction dollars. Two routes would run through the northern portion of the state and the third would come from the south through Indianapolis to Gary.

Indiana is one of nine states in the Midwest Rail Initiative.

Other states such as Illinois and Michigan have already set aside significant funding amounts.

Illinois has earmarked $221 million and Michigan, $126 million.

"Weíve got to get started on this," said Sen. Robert Jackman, R-Milroy, the billís sponsor. "In the end, we canít keep laying asphalt. We have to find a new way to move people. "

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

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