The existing South Shore Line (SSL) provides a vital transportation link that connects Northwest Indiana to Chicago. The SSL proposes to expand the SSL from single track to double track between Gary and Michigan City and construct, signal, power, and platform improvements at five passenger stations.
Representatives of the South Shore Line have been conducting a series of meetings with area residents to promote a plan to make improvements to the line.
According to South Shore officials the planned improvements included time safety upgrades for a proposed Double Track NWI project.
The $210 million project hopes to promote economic development in the region by adding a second set of tracks between Gary and Michigan City.
The plan also calls for improvements to the boarding platforms of five South Shore Stations.
Along with shorting commuter time to and from Chicago, the double track will also increase ridership.
It is estimated that the plan could cut commuter time significantly for those who commute to Chicago on a daily basis.
The improvements will provide more travel options for potential riders. Currently it is estimated that 12,000 riders commute on the line daily and once the project is completed that number could increase to 25,000 daily.
There are also plans for improvement to the train stations including new high-level platforms and the train station currently located at U.S. 12 and U.S. 20 to the East side of Lake Street in Miller.
Gary officials are looking at providing an improved transit facility and may be replacing the Adam Benjamin Metro Center downtown.
According to an analysis done as part of the update of the RDA’s Comprehensive Strategic Plan in August 2016, South Shore commuter rail expansion will have a transformative effect on Northwest Indiana in these additional areas:
Construction of the West Lake Corridor and double-tracking the existing South Shore line from Gary to Michigan City will support approximately 2,000 construction jobs during the construction period from 2018 to 2022. And together, these to improvements to the South Shore system are projected to create about 5,700 permanent jobs in Lake and Porter counties by 2046.
Station area development is projected to generate an additional $435 million in local property tax revenues for Hammond, Munster, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Miller, Ogden Dunes and Portage from 2018 to 2039.
The economic activity generated by the commuter rail investments will produce additional revenue for the State of Indiana – more than 4 times the State’s annual commitment within 20 years.
NICTD is applying for a federal grant to cover one half the construction costs. Assistance from the state will be sought for the other half of the funding. The NICTD plans to submit a proposal during the legislative session next year.
Prior to submitting its application to the federal government, studies have been commissioned to review the impact the projects will have on the environment and will hold several hearing next year.
NICTD officials say owners of property that will need to be purchased for the project will also need to be contacted.
NICTD is in the process of conducting a series of workshops the first was held in the Miller section of Gary a number of citizens attended and were give information about the project.
The next workshops are to be held in Michigan City, Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Michigan City’s City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Blvd.
RDA is a development agency covering Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana. They have been given four tasks by the state General Assembly: redevelop the Lake Michigan shoreline in accordance with the Marquette Plan; expand the Gary/Chicago International Airport; develop and support regional passenger rail and bus transportation; and enhance economic development Northwest Indiana. Since 2005, the RDA, Northwest Indiana communities, and for-profit and non-profit partners have invested or committed approximately $210 million toward these goals. This investment has directly leveraged more than $540 million in additional local, federal and private funds. Overall, these projects have created or supported more than 2,000 permanent and construction jobs and had a total economic impact of more than $1.1 billion since 2006.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority was established in 2005 through a bipartisan effort including former Governor Mitchell E. Daniels, Congressman Peter J. Visclosky, key state legislators, and local elected officials, the RDA is a quasi-governmental development entity entrusted to make public investment decisions within a regional framework for supporting catalytic infrastructure projects and inducing private sector investment. Years of successful results have made it a trusted and tested partner for growth in Northwest Indiana.