The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority approved a $317,197 matching grant Thursday to the Porter County Regional Airport toward a $12.6 million federal grant for runway improvements.
The airport’s runway 9-27 will be resurfaced and enhanced with high-intensity lighting, said Bill Hanna, RDA president and chief executive officer. The 9-27 runway is about 7,000 feet long and the airport’s second runway is about 4,000 feet. The airport is just north of U.S. 30 at 4207 Murvihill Road, east of Valparaiso and Indiana 49.
“Just like the airport in Gary, the Porter County airport is a significant driver of regional economic activity,” said Hanna. “A 2012 estimate put its economic impact at more than $17 million annually. This grant is a small but vital piece to access federal funding for urgently needed repairs and upgrades.”
In May, the airport received a $4.3 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration toward the second phase of reconstruction on the runway’s eastern portion.
The Porter County Commissioners are expected to approve a similar $317,197 match. Combined with $634,394 in state funding, it would make up the 10 percent match for $11.4 million in federal funding.
Officials said the runway is in danger of falling below minimum service levels.
In other business, Hanna said members of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. will visit Northwest Indiana Monday to review the RDA’s application for a $42 million Regional Cities grant. Two winning applicants will split a state pot of $84 million, Hanna said.
The RDA’s project involves the double tracking of the South Shore Railroad from Gary to Michigan City. Hanna estimated the project at $100 to $110 million. The project will speed up commute times to Chicago and keep Northwest Indiana competitive with Illinois suburbs, he said.
The project also includes the creation of transit-oriented development around existing South Shore stations including Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, and Michigan City. Such development would be pitched to young, career-minded millennials looking to live near a train station for convenience, Hanna said.
The RDA board of directors approved a $53,000 contract with engineering consultant SEH, to prepare the RDA’s funding application.