Northeast Indiana Infrastructure projects outlined

August 19th, 2015

News Coverage:

August 19, 2015

Infrastructure projects outlined
Logistics council studies regions priorities, funding goals

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

John Sampson traces northeast Indiana’s cooperative attitude to a 2009 conversation.

David Long, a state senator representing parts of Allen and Whitley counties, said then that the region’s delegation to the General Assembly wanted to allocate state money to pay for local officials’ priorities – but legislators didn’t know what those priorities were.

“It hurts us as a community when we’re not prepared and this money goes somewhere else,” said Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. “Never again.”

Sampson joined business and government officials from a 13-county region Tuesday as the Conexus Indiana Northeast Regional Logistics Council unveiled its priorities for investment in road, air, rail and water infrastructure for the next 30 years.

Among the highway project priorities are limiting access to U.S. 30, widening U.S. 33 to four lanes and expanding U.S. 6 to four lanes from west of Kendallville to the Ohio border. In each case, according to the report, the goal is to reduce congestion and improve traffic flow.

U.S. 33, for example, is a winding, two-lane road connecting Fort Wayne and Elkhart. Recreational vehicles assembled in Elkhart have to travel U.S. 33 to reach Interstate 69 on their way to being shipped out to RV dealers nationwide. Various manufacturers located in Ligonier also ship products on trucks using U.S. 33.

Conexus Indiana, the state’s advanced manufacturing and logistics initiative, works to capitalize on advanced manufacturing and logistics opportunities.

The region’s council comprises 36 logistics, manufacturing, warehousing and economic development officials working in northeast Indiana. For more than two years, the group has studied existing infrastructure and debated what investments would bring the most return.

David Holt, vice president of operations and business development for Conexus Indiana, said officials don’t expect to get every wish granted. In fact, he said, having some projects funded would eliminate the need for others.

An estimate for the entire projects list comes to about $4 billion, based on meeting state construction standards for the work, Holt said.

But some of the projects could be completed for less money by meeting less rigorous county standards, he added.

Another piece of the study was figuring out what logistics-related job openings cannot be filled because there aren’t enough skilled workers. The next step was to identify what skills are needed and encourage educators to provide classes that offer the specialized training.

Having those conversations with universities, colleges and Ivy Tech Community College is next on the council’s to-do list, Holt said.

Among the needs are more air cargo pilots, truck drivers and boat captains. Employers also have openings for warehouse/logistics maintenance technicians, logistics supervisors with four-year degrees and workers certified to operate heavy equipment.

Council members have also considered public policy and public awareness of various logistics issues. The group has identified an opportunity to educate the public on the logistics industry’s economic impact on the area and the positives of global trade.

The council’s report, “Accelerating Manufacturing Excellence through World-Class Logistics,” outlines various opportunities for strengthening the region’s logistics industry and will guide future funding conversations between northeast Indiana officials and state legislators, Sampson said.

“We cannot be caught flatfooted,” he said, “not knowing what our priorities are.”

At a glance

“Accelerating Manufacturing Excellence through World-Class Logistics,” a report released Tuesday by the Conexus Indiana Northeast Regional Logistics Council, sets priorities for future investment in the region. Some highlights include:

Interstate highway projects

• Widen U.S. 33 to four lanes from the Ohio state line to Elkhart with interchanges at major intersections

• Convert Indiana 124 to a four-lane highway with interchanges at major intersections

• Improve and widen Indiana 8 from its intersection with Indiana 3 to its intersection with Indiana 327 to improve truck access between Garrett and Auburn

Local road projects

• Re-engineer the U.S. 24 and Interstate 69 interchange into a cloverleaf to cut down on traffic congestion

• Redesign the Interstate 80/90 and I-69 interchange in Steuben County to improve traffic flow

• Widen Indiana 1 in Wells County to improve traffic flow

Air project

• Conduct a private sector study on air cargo volume 

Rail project

• Expand the local Triple Crown rail yard to provide East Coast intermodal rail service – intermodal infrastructure allows the easy transfer of train cars to and from semi rigs

updated: 8/19/2015 8:41:31 AM

From Inside Indiana Business:updated: 8/19/2015 8:41:31 AM
Conexus Details Northeast Regional Logistics Plan
Andy Ober,

Conexus Indiana's Northeast Regional Logistics Council has unveiled a regional logistics strategic plan for its 13-county region. The plan includes more than 50 infrastructure projects and work force development and public policy opportunities.

The council is made up of 36 logistics executives and industry leaders from throughout northeast Indiana.

The plan identifies road, rail, air and water infrastructure projects. The proposals include converting US 30 to a four-lane full access-controlled freeway with interchanges and extending multiple I-69 exits. It also calls for the Triple Crown Rail Yard in Fort Wayne to provide intermodal rail service from Norfolk, Virginia.

The NERLC is one of six regional councils tasked with putting together strategies. You can find the completed reports by clicking here.

From The News-Sentinel August 19, 2015:

Planners promote $4 billion improvement plan to boost logistics industry in northeast Indiana

By Bob Caylor of The News-Sentinel
Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 12:01 am

Fulfilling a comprehensive wish list of regional road improvements in northeast Indiana would cost about $4 billion, according to estimates from a regional logistics council.

But leaders of the effort emphasized on Tuesday that not every project needs to be done in the next few years to improve the efficiency of business in this corner of the state.

This regional logistics plan includes an ambitious collection of road improvements for the region, with a smaller number of airport and rail improvements included, too. Among the biggest proposals in the report from the Northeast Regional Logistics Council:

*Building a long western and northern extension of Interstate 469 that would begin near Roanoke, curve north to near Columbia City then turn east and link with I-69 again south of Auburn. Estimated cost: $736 million.

*Converting U.S. 33 to a four-lane, controlled-access freeway from the Ohio border to Elkhart. Estimated cost: $1.55 billion.

*Making U.S. 30 a four-lane, controlled-access freeway. Estimated cost: $933.5 million.

The northeast Indiana plan released on Tuesday is one of several produced throughout the state by Conexus Indiana, an advocacy and planning group for the logistics industry in the state. Logistics -- moving things around -- is a blanket term for warehousing and distribution, important businesses in this region. At least 13,500 people in northeast Indiana worked in warehousing and transportation businesses in 2013, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Identifying important regional improvements in infrastructure is just part of the plan. It also points the way for vocational training to help fill logistics jobs, such as driving trucks and piloting cargo aircraft.

And with a cumulative price tag in the billions of dollars, the plan helps lay the foundation for lobbying local, state and federal officials for continued funding.

“We've got to move projects in the region to move products to market,” said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.

“We're going to drive it through to make sure it happens,” said David Holt, vice president of operations and business development for Conexus Indiana.

Northeast Indiana has enjoyed considerable success in attracting logistics businesses already. Sampson says much of the region's competitive advantage comes from the relatively uncongested roads and streets here, compared with Chicago and Indianapolis, for example. Improving highways and rail routes would sharpen that advantage even more, he said.