Having won $180 million over 30 years in funding for expanding commuter rail, the Regional Development Authority (RDA) aims to build communities that are “creative enterprises” and launch “transit-oriented development,” said Bill Hanna, President/CEO. Northwest Indiana is now poised to make the first investment in commuter rail in 100 years in Indiana with the first leg of the Westlake Corridor planned from Hammond to Dyer. “This will bring together our two greatest assets of shoreline development and Lake Michigan to focus on Chicago, the third largest economy in the nation,” he added. This organization that rallied local and state supporters to win $6 million a year was inducted into The Society of Innovators last fall. Also receiving the Accelerating Greatness Award, this first-of-a kind organization led the effort that won total support from the NWI delegation. The Indiana Legislature’s guaranteed funding means that plans for the $571 million commuter rail expansion can now move forward to the next phase. Hanna said an environmental impact study is underway and needed for New Start matching funds from the Federal Transit Authority. “Key to approval will be local community support,” he stressed. With12 of the 19 communities committed to local funding, support is especially vital from Hammond and East Chicago. Looking forward, the RDA will help communities along new and existing lines become “creative enterprises” that encourage the private sector to innovate with “even better ideas.” Add “transit-oriented development” along with faster trains to make our communities even more competitive in attracting passengers to and from Chicago, Hanna added.