16 counties want Chicago time

Author: MARY INDYSTAR.COM

More can ask today for a hearing on switching zones

Today is the federal deadline for Indiana counties to seek a time zone change, but the struggle to win that change is only starting.

As of Thursday, 16counties had formally asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to have hearings on whether they should be moved to Central time from Eastern.

Ten of the state's 92 counties already are on Central time, and that will not change.

But hearings -- much less an actual switch -- are far from guaranteed. The federal agency will decide first whether each county has made a strong enough initial case to merit a hearing. A department official declined to say Thursday how long that might take.

Most of the counties applying for a change are clustered in Northwest Indiana, where Chicago is a major influence, and the southwestern corner of the state, which has historic ties to western Kentucky and southern Illinois.

In some cases, neighboring counties have split on the issue. St. Joseph County, home of South Bend, for example, has applied for a shift to Central time, while neighboring Elkhart and Kosciusko counties have not.

Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, said commerce will be federal officials' No. 1 consideration -- where people work, get their news and conduct most business. That, he believes, makes it a slam-dunk case for Eastern time in most of Indiana.

But University of Notre Dame marketing Professor John F. Gaski wrote to the Department of Transportation, maintaining Central time is best for most, if not all, of Indiana. While the chamber notes that 39 percent of Indiana's exports go to the Eastern zone, that means 61 percent go elsewhere, Gaski said.

Federal officials set today's deadline after Gov. Mitch Daniels successfully pushed to put Indiana into daylight-saving time.

The law required Daniels to ask for federal hearings on where the time zone boundary should be in Indiana.

Brinegar expects few hearings will be granted by the federal agency.

"It's a distinct possibility that they'll say, 'We got it right 30 years ago,' " he said.

Call Star reporter Mary Beth Schneider at (317) 444-2772.

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What's next

If the federal Department of Transportation says an application merits a "notice of proposed rule-making," that triggers another period for public comment and a hearing. Only then will the agency decide wheter to change the time zone boundary.

On the Web: To read submissions by the public to the Department of Transportation about the Indiana time zone case, go to http://dms.dot.gov/ clink on "Simple Search" and enter 22114 for Indiana.

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