History of NIRPC
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) is a multi-purpose, sub-state, area-wide planning agency. NIRPC is a Regional Council of Governments and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Northwestern Indiana. Created by an action of the Indiana General Assembly and signed by the governor in 1965, NIRPC held its first meeting in 1966, marking the beginning of formalized regional collaboration among the communities of northwest Indiana in cooperatively planning for the future of the region.
NIRPC is the only regional planning body in the State that has its enabling statute specifically adopted into state code. An amendment to the legislation in 1973 provided the Commission with its current name and allowed for the addition of new member counties. Under this provision LaPorte County joined NIRPC in 1979.
Together with the state department of transportation and public transit operators, MPOs are responsible for carrying out the transportation planning process for urbanized areas. Since its formation, NIRPC has qualified the region to receive billions of dollars in federal grants to produce funding for local and regional projects, investments and services. NIRPC has generated a spirit of cooperation and collaboration within the region and has provided technical services and advice to local governments.
NIRPC is comprised of fifty-three members appointed by local elected officials, and one appointed by the Governor. All of the Commission members must be local elected officials. The Commission’s planning area is comprised of the three participating counties of Lake, Porter and LaPorte. It consists of over 775,000 people and covers 1,520 square miles. There are forty-one cities and towns and forty-four townships within the NIRPC planning area.
Over the 50 years of its existence, NIRPC’s contribution to the region has been marked by:
- Maintaining a certified metropolitan area planning process, keeping the region eligible for federal transportation funds;
- Leadership in saving the South Shore Railroad commuter service from discontinuance, forming the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, participating in the initial purchase of new rail cars, and planning for new stations;
- Encouraging the formation of the Lake Michigan Marina Development Commission, which planned for new and expanded marinas;
- Forming the Borman Task Force to call attention to severe problems along I-80/94 in Lake County, and recommending solutions;
- Providing vehicles and operating assistance for public transportation systems, particularly those serving people with mobility limitations;
- Providing staff services to agencies such as the Little Calumet Basin Development Commission and the Kankakee River Basin Commission;
- Providing a forum for the discussion of environmental, economic development and transportation issues; and
- Providing a long-term vision and achievable plans for the region.
The document at the link below is an abbreviated history of the agency over its first 50 years. Though northwest Indiana continues to face challenges both old and new, an examination of this history shows how far the region has come in half a century, and how much can be accomplished by working together. It is on that foundation that the next 50 years will be just as history-making.
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