The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Dec. 22 announced that its Build America Bureau (Bureau) has provided a $27.5 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan for a portion of the $649 million Double Track Project along a 26.6-mile segment of the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City, Ind.
According to the USDOT, the project includes nearly 18 miles of double tracking and overhead power system installation, separating vehicular traffic along two miles of street-running rail line, upgrading five stations, eliminating 13 at-grade roadway/track crossings, and adding 1,475 parking spaces. The remaining crossings will be upgraded with automatic warning devices including flashers, gates, and bells. Already under construction, the project should be complete at the end of 2024.
The Double Track financing, USDOT says, “complements a larger $203.3 million loan executed earlier this year (the West Lake Corridor Project) for the eight-mile extension of the South Shore Line between Dyer and Hammond, Ind.” The overall funding and financing package includes a USDOT $354.6 million grant agreement with the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) for the West Lake Corridor Project through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investments Program.
The Bureau, USDOT says, helps communities across the country reduce the costs of infrastructure projects by “providing low cost, long-term RRIF and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans and other types of financing.” The Borrower is the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA).
The Bureau, which was established as a “one-stop-shop” during the Obama Administration to help states and other project sponsors carry out infrastructure projects, offers low-interest, long-term credit programs, technical assistance, and best practices in project planning, financing, delivery and operation, according to the USDOT. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden in November 2021, “expands project eligibility for the Bureau’s credit program and extends maturity of the loans, giving borrowers additional flexibility.”
To date, the USDOT says it has closed more than $7.5 billion in RRIF financing for projects across the U.S.
“We are pleased to help finance the Double Track Project, which will increase safety, reliability and cut travel time by one-third for commuters from Michigan City to Chicago,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg. “This project will deliver improved trip options, taking vehicles off the road and reducing harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
“The South Shore Line upgrades will not only benefit commuters, but the entire region as transit-oriented development is induced and new jobs are created,” added Bureau Executive Director Dr. Morteza Farajian. “Eliminating shared use of the single track and the road/train crossings greatly enhances safety for riders and drivers.”