CHESTERTON, Ind. – The South Shore Line in northern Indiana has been testing trains at a lowered speed and “expects to return commercial train travel to a 14-mile stretch of track.”
According to Inside Indiana Business, The South Shore Line in northern Indiana has been testing trains at a lowered speed, and it “expects to return commercial train travel to a 14-mile stretch of track as early as the end of the month.” These efforts come from a plan to run a second line between Gary and Michigan City, spanning almost 17 miles.
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s President, Mike Noland, commented that the West Lake Corridor extension is “on track for completion in 2025 and talks to relocate the line’s South Bend airport location continue.” The extension costs $945 million and branches south into Lake County suburbs. Noland also mentioned that “South Shore operators are even considering revisiting a years-old study of placing a new station near New Carlisle. . . Our capital budget for the next five years is $2 billion.”
Last summer, NICTD bean its South Shore Double Track project and track tested in mid-August, staying on schedule. With trains running last month on the new track between Michigan City and Chesterton, it has “bused passengers 26 miles between its Gary Metro Center and Carroll Avenue stops as crews rip up old rail, straighten out some curves, and put down new track – including the second railway which, when complete, will allow the South Shore Line to extend new express services to commuters.”
During testing, dispatchers, engineers, and conductors are working to get familiar with the track and its switch points as well as speed restrictions. The section crews are focusing on spans 14 miles and stretches from Dune Park to Carroll Avenue and should reopen late this month or in early October. Afterward, crews will work on finishing and testing the section between Gary Metro Center and Dune Park. NICTD President Nolan commented that this project is also on schedule, but it has gone slightly over its $375 million construction contract.
According to the report, Nolan stated that the “service’s West Lake Corridor extension, overlapping with the double track project, has had some scheduling issues but is still making good progress toward its anticipated May 2025 completion date.” This extension runs 8 miles south of the main east-west leg, “opening new stops in Hammond, Munster, and Dyer.” The new corridor will connect north of downtown Hammond with existing South Shore track. The West Lake Corridor construction entails crews building railway overpasses above existing track. This project is about 35% complete and will include future utility work.
The South Shore Line will add more trains to its fleet to “accommodate more than 20 miles of new track between the double track and West Lake projects.” Recently, The South Shore Line acquired 26 double decker rail cars from Metra in Chicago, and these will be refurbished with “new seats, windows, floors, restrooms and USB ports, and will add capacity to the service’s existing 82-car fleet.”
Looking toward the east, NICTD wants to reduce service time to the eastern terminal in South Bend. Currently, the Line’s final stop is at the east end of South Bend International Airport, and the “commute’s final stretch, which actually sees trains pass the airport to its south and circle back to the airport’s east end, adds about 15 minutes to passenger’s travels.” The NICTD has started working with South Bend Airport Authority and has “already begun acquiring land needed to reroute the South Shore Line’s approach into the airport’s west side.” This relocation will eliminate more than a dozen at-grade crossings. While engineering studies have begun, “early estimates show the project could cost about $75 million.”
Terminal relocation is a focus for NICTD and its goal to reduce travel times between Chicago and South Bend. Nolan added that it has “plans not only to add another round-trip service out of South Bend once we open up double track, but also to run shuttle service out of Michigan City so that we can get to nearly hourly service to and from Chicago from South Bend airport. That will be a huge benefit for not only the airport, but the entire St. Joe/Elkhart region to have that kind of quality service.” However, NICTD wants to also hone in on what it can achieve in the short-term which is “a more direct commute to the airport, and a potential new stop along the way.” Nolan stated that NICTD needs to look at a potential station stop to see how it can “promote the economic development that that investment is going to bring.”