SOUTH BEND — After two hours of listening behind closed doors to local leaders' pitch for federal money to double-track the South Shore Line, the nation's top transportation official declined to talk specifically about the project publicly Tuesday.
"That is an application that is in progress and I will not talk more about it," U.S. Transporation Secretary Elaine Chao told reporters after emerging from the meeting at the South Bend International Airport. "But suffice it to say, the bipartisan nature and the public-private partnership aspects of any project would be ones that are important to us. Once again, Indiana appears to be leading the way."
Standing behind her at the podium were Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.
Chao said her decision to bring several high-level staff members with her on the visit indicates its importance.
The project, which would reduce from two and half hours to 90 minutes the rail commute from South Bend to Chicago, would cost an estimated $290 million and can't happen without the federal money.
Chao is married to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. A reporter asked Young, who coordinated the event, what her visit might mean for the project's funding odds.