The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) Board of Directors has approved the lease of 26 bi-level EMUs from Metra to boost capacity on the South Shore Line as it advances two expansion projects that, once online, will add 26 trains per day to the schedule.
Also approved: A $17 million construction management contract to WSP USA for the 26-mile Double Track Northwest Indiana project, plus $1 million for rail and about $200,000 for signaling electronics contracts, so once construction starts in mid-to-late summer, work can begin. The West Lake Corridor project—extending commuter rail service 7.8 miles from Hammond (on the north) to Dyer (on the south)—is expected to see shovels this fall.
NICTD/South Shore Line President Mike Noland told Railway Age that the Metra cars—ordered from Nippon Shayo in 2003—could be leased for 15 years, at a cost of $3.5 million per year. The South Shore Line has 14 identical cars, he said, which were piggybacked onto the original Metra order. That’s among the reasons why the agency is interested in the lease. Metra would rehabilitate the cars prior to transferring them to NICTD, and if the Chicago commuter rail agency wanted to recall them, it would have to provide five years’ notice, said Noland, who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Commuter Rail Coalition.
NICTD is also completing a Request for Proposal process for new cars, Noland reported, which is slated to wrap up in mid-to-late February. But “our expectation is that we will enter into the lease, unless the new car proposals are such that we need to reconsider the leasing,” he said.
WSP USA will oversee construction of NICTD’s double track project between Gary and Michigan City, Ind. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for the $491 million project, which also includes building four new bridges and three high-level platforms, among other components.
Noland expects contracts will be awarded for the work this spring, with construction starting in mid-to-late summer. The NICTD Board just approved the acquisition of rail, under a $1 million contract with A&K Railroad Materials, and ElectroLogIXS-based electronic equipment, under a $208,226 contract with Alstom Group.
Noland said NICTD is driving toward a late summer or early fall 2023 revenue service start.
While there was a virtual groundbreaking in October for the $944.9 million West Lake Corridor project, Noland anticipates a construction start-date for early this fall.
Listen to Noland discuss expansion programs and the symbiotic relationship between South Shore commuter rail and freight operators with Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono in this Rail Group On Air podcast series with the Commuter Rail Coalition.