CHESTERTON – A massive railroad construction project that will radically transform the north side of Michigan City is one step closer to reality.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, operator of the South Shore Line, has formally requested entry into the New Starts engineering phase of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program for the Double Track Northwest Indiana project, according to NICTD spokeswoman Nicole Barker.
The $300 million project is a priority for Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the Indiana Finance Authority, she said.
The Double Track project includes installation of a second main line track from Virginia Street in Gary to Michigan Boulevard in Michigan City.
It includes 17 miles of new track, four new bridges, and signal, power, platform, parking and station improvements at five South Shore Line stations, including 11th Street in Michigan City, Dune Park, Beverly Shores, Gary/Miller and Portage/Ogden Dunes.
Michigan City will actually see a larger impact from the project than any other city along the line. The project includes an improved and expanded station at 11th Street with two high-level boarding platforms and a new station building with a multi-level parking structure, an in-station waiting area, and gauntlet tracks.
The project also includes removal of about 1.9 miles of embedded, in-street tracks in the center of 11th; installation of new track that is separated from the roadway, and the closure of 21 at-grade crossings, Barker said.
Michigan City will also see major improvements on Green Street, and a complete upgrade of the Amtrak crossing, with the existing crossing replaced by crossing diamonds for the two new South Shore tracks.
These investments will deliver better reliability for the service, shorter travel times for commuters, increased frequency of trains, and enhanced safety.
”The Double Track project will transform the physical and economic landscape of the Northwest Indiana region and catalyze growth in communities served by the South Shore Line,” Michael Noland, NICTD president and CEO said. “This project is uniquely positioned to move forward with federal support because our exemplary partnership model includes local and state investment.”
NICTD and its partners on the project – including Michigan City and La Porte County – have worked closely with the FTA to deliver on the requirements for the CIG program, he said, including:
• Selecting a locally preferred alternative
• Adopting local partnership agreements into the fiscally constrained metropolitan transportation plan
• Completing an environmental review process
• Preparing sufficient information for FTA to develop a project rating
• Obtaining commitment of at least 30 percent of the non-CIG funding
• Completing at least 30 percent design and engineering, including documentation at appropriate level of detail
NICTD and partners are also continuing to work with state and federal partners to advance a second major commuter rail expansion plan – the West Lake Corridor project – an 8-mile extension of the South Shore Line from Hammond to Dyer.
“These projects will be game-changers for the region and the state,” said Bill Hanna, president and CEO of the RDA.
“By increasing our connectivity to Chicago, the third-largest metro area in the country, commuter rail will drive job creation and economic development in Northwest Indiana.”
According to the most recent update of the RDA’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan, the Double Track and West Lake Corridor projects could attract about $2.3 billion in private investment to Northwest Indiana, create more than 6,000 new jobs, and provide $3 billion in economic impact by 2048.