NICTD gains federal approval to develop double tracking projectWritten by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
A planned double track project in Indiana may move forward following a key approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) has received approval from the FTA to enter Project Development for its long anticipated project to double track the South Shore Line from Tennessee Street in Gary, Ind., to Michigan Blvd. in Michigan City, Ind., a distance of approximately 25 miles.
The estimated $210-million project is expected to add 5,000 – 8,000 daily riders to the South Shore Line, increase train frequency by 30 percent and improve on-time performance. In addition, double tracking the South Shore Line will allow the railroad to significantly reduce travel times along the line, especially at station locations farther away from Chicago.
In March of this year, the NICTD Board of Trustees approved a $4-million contract for HDR Engineering to lead the preliminary engineering and environmental studies necessary to request a federal rating of the double tracking project next year. The approval puts the project into the federal pipeline for a 50 percent matching grant under its Capital Investment Grant program. The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has committed $1.6 million and Northern Indiana Regional Development Authority has pledged $800,000 towards the HDR contract.
It is NICTD’s goal to seek a project rating by the FTA in late 2017, which if successful, would lead to a funding recommendation in the president’s 2018 budget. Once approved by Congress, the project is anticipated to commence construction in 2019, with completion in late 2020.
According to NICTD’s General Manager Michael Noland, the double tracking project “leverages upon years of intelligent, targeted and sustained reinvestment in the infrastructure of the South Shore Line. People always ask me, when can we reduce the travel time to Chicago from South Bend to 90 minutes, or 60 minutes from Michigan City? I tell them double track the railroad and we can make that happen.”
The next step in this process, in addition to completing the preliminary engineering and environmental studies, is locking up the all important local/state share of $105 million to qualify for federal funding.