Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb on June 20 was joined by federal, state, regional and local officials to break ground on the double-tracking of the South Shore Line from Michigan City, Ind., to Gary, Ind.
The nearly $650 million project will increase train frequency and significantly reduce travel time on the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) South Shore Line. It is being funded through a mix of federal, state and local investments, with $173 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grants program and $24 million from the American Rescue Plan.
Gov. Holcomb, Indiana’s congressional delegation, members of the Indiana General Assembly, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and local elected leaders worked with NICTD to provide funding and leadership for the South Shore Double-Track project. The state has committed more than $340 million; local partners, more than $80 million; and NICTD, up to $30 million.
The project—described as “one of the largest public transit investments in the state’s history and a prominent piece of Governor Holcomb’s Next Level Agenda”—consists of improvements to the existing line and the addition of nearly 18 miles of new track over a 26-mile corridor along NICTD’s existing South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City (see map above). Improvements include replacement of the current street-running tracks on 10th and 11th streets, a new overhead contact system, 22 at-grade crossings, 20 culverts, platform upgrades at five stations and more than 1,400 parking spaces. The additional 18 miles of new double-track territory also includes a separated two-track right-of-way along two miles in Michigan City.
The project will improve safety along the entire alignment, especially in Michigan City, where the new alignment will remove the street-running tracks, eliminate 20 at-grade crossings, and provide a safer environment for passengers boarding trains.
Construction is expected to be completed in early 2024, with passenger service beginning later that year. Service is planned to operate every 16 minutes during weekday peak periods and approximately every 75 minutes during weekday off-peak periods and evenings.
“The double-track project is transformative for northwest Indiana and the positive impacts will be felt across the state for generations to come,” Gov. Holcomb said. “This game-changing project is another prime example of how Indiana is laser-focused on connecting people and businesses to our state’s exceptional quality of life, great communities and pro-growth business environment.”
“Double-tracking the South Shore Line unlocks the true potential of this railroad and opens up vastly improved commuter rail service from northwest Indiana to Chicago and back,” South Shore Line President Michael Noland said. “Reliability, more frequent service options, reduced time to market, and safety enhancements are vital to the long-term success and will result in tremendous economic growth. We can’t thank our partners at the FTA enough as they have been with us at every step of this process. And profound gratitude to Gov. Holcomb and our local, state and federal delegation for their support and leadership to get us to this great day.”
In addition to the Double Track project, the single-track West Lake Corridor project, an eight-mile extension of the South Shore Line running from Hammond, Ind., to Dyer, Ind., along the Indiana-Illinois state line, has also been made a Next Level Agenda priority, according to the Governor’s Office. The West Lake Corridor project, which will be financed in part by a $203.3 million Rehabilitation and Improvement (RRIF) Program loan, includes four new stations, as well as the addition of sidewalks, walking trails and bike paths, in and around the station areas. It is slated for completion in 2025. Combined, the Double Track and West Lake Corridor projects are expected to attract approximately $2.7 billion in private investment to northwest Indiana, and result in more than 6,000 new jobs and $5 billion in economic impact by 2048, the Governor’s Office reported.