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BusINess » Business Transportation » Rail summit to highlight freight, high-speed, commuter

Rail summit to highlight freight, high-speed, commuter

The United States’ top transportation official is coming to Chesterton to boost freight, passenger and high-speed rail as the solution to rebuilding the U.S. economy.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will be the keynote speaker at the Rail Delivers Jobs summit on Thursday at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

“It’s unusual that a U.S. cabinet secretary comes to Northwest Indiana,” said Rex Richards, executive director of the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce. “And it’s very significant that he is coming to talk about the key issue of rail, which is an important part of our total economic development program.”

Also speaking at the luncheon will be Dane Miller, founder of Warsaw, Ind.-based Biomet Inc., and Gary Eelman, a vice president at Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar Inc. company. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., also will be speaking.

“There is some thinking out there that railroads are a thing of the past; that they are not that important, but actually they are more important than ever,” said Leigh Morris, chairman of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

LaHood comes as a debate is raging in Congress about President Barack Obama’s request for an additional $53 billion to fund high-speed passenger rail projects. LaHood will address that issue but also will be talking about the importance of freight and traditional passenger rail to our economic recovery, Morris said.

As Secretary of Transportation, LaHood oversees the nation’s air, maritime and surface transportation systems. He leads an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a $70 billion budget. He became secretary of transportation in January 2009 after serving 14 years representing the 18th District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Northwest Indiana is one of the nation’s most rail-intensive regions, with three of the nation’s Class I freight railroads operating in the region as well as four short-line freight railroads, Amtrak and the South Shore commuter line.

Tickets for Thursday’s event still are available by calling the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce at 219. 462.1105.

The event is sponsored by the Valparaiso Economic Development Corp. and Northwest Indiana Forum in partnership with the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and Mary Elisabeth Pitz & Associates.

If you go

The Rail Delivers Jobs summit, featuring U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Thursday at Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.

Tickets for Thursday’s event are still available by calling the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce at 219.462.1105.

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