Mrvan touts local projects in House bill

From sewer and road investments to law enforcement equipment upgrades, U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, announced Friday that the House of Representatives approved a bevy of local projects in the final version of its Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations measure.

The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden soon.

“Thank you to all of my colleagues and leaders on the House Appropriations Committee for including these worthwhile and beneficial projects that will improve the quality of life in Northwest Indiana,” Mrvan said in a statement. “I appreciate that these federal dollars will continue to grow our Northwest Indiana economy by improving operations at the Gary/Chicago International Airport, the Michigan City Harbor, and support sewer and road projects in the Cities of La Porte, Portage, and Valparaiso. We also must continue to support our dedicated members of law enforcement, and I would highlight that this law provides direct funding for the police departments in Gary, Hammond, Merrillville, Michigan City, and Munster. As we begin work to consider measures for Fiscal Year 2025, I look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders in Northwest Indiana and my Congressional colleagues to continue to bring taxpayer dollars back to Northwest Indiana to benefit everyone in our communities.”

The three largest recipients of federal funding are the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, which is set to receive $4.1 million to assist with the construction and expansion of a heavy cargo logistics apron; the Michigan City Harbor, which will receive $2.5 million to assist with operations and maintenance; and the Calumet Region Environmental Infrastructure, which will receive $2 million to help Lake and Porter communities address critical water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater sewer infrastructure improvement in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In July, Dan Vicari, executive director of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, said airport officials were excited about the potential for further growth with the injection of federal funding.

“I think what (Mrvan) likes is that we are an economic engine and we have a really strong local hiring component. The airport authority itself employs more than 40 people; the various businesses throughout the airport currently employ more than 400 individuals in various roles.

“To think what that number could be if we attract more cargo and hopefully get a (passenger) airline to make this a hub. There are so many possibilities,” Vicari said at the time.

The funding will pay to improve cargo capacity in phase one of a long-term expansion project as services like UPS continue to come to the airport and grow. UPS currently operates in the passenger terminal. Part of the project that the funding would be directed to includes making new accommodations for UPS and enhancing their ability to grow. The work also will enable the airport to bring in more end cargo handlers.

In Portage, Burns Waterway Small Boat Harbor will receive $998,000 to assist with operations and maintenance and the city will receive $500,000 to improve inadequate safety conditions and deteriorating infrastructure as part of the Central Avenue Reconstruction Project.

Five local police departments will receive funding to assist with technology and equipment upgrades. Merrillville will receive $963,000 to help purchase communication equipment as part of the town’s Radio Replacement Project; Hammond will get $350,000 to upgrade its video surveillance/license plate reader system; Gary plans to use $264,00 to purchase stationary license plate reader camera devices and mobile trailer units; Munster will receive $215,000 to upgrade its equipment; and Michigan City will use $180,000 to acquire license plate readers.

Hammond’s Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana, Inc. will receive $963,000 to purchase and install a new Mission Control Simulator, and Michigan City will get $1 million to upgrade Fedder’s Alley All-Inclusive Playground and Fitness Park project by removing barriers to exclusion, both physical and social, and providing a sensory-rich experience for all.

The City of Valparaiso will receive $959,752 to address combined sewers through sewer separation projects as part of the city’s Stormwater Quality and Detention Project, and the City of La Porte will receive $959,752 to replace combined sewers with new separate sanitary and storm sewer facilities and a storm sewer extension.

Carrie Napoleon contributed.