Environmental phase of Double Track project wins FTA approval
Tim Zorn / Post-Tribune / November 5, 2018
A project to improve the South Shore Line’s service took a major step forward recently, as the Federal Transit Administration approved the environmental phase of the Double Track project – a second set of tracks between Gary and Michigan City.
“That was a major hurdle for us to clear,” South Shore President Michael Noland said. “That’s one of the areas where projects can get slowed down significantly.” A link to the FTA’s environmental approval is at www.doubletrack-nwi.com/docs.
The next step, Noland said, will be to get the FTA’s approval for the project’s engineering.
Ultimately, the South Shore aims to obtain federal money to cover half of the project’s cost, which Noland said is about $376 million. He said the cost has increased as the FTA has required more money set aside for contingencies, or unexpected costs, and the cost of steel and the overall inflation rate have risen.
Along with new tracks, the Double Track project would bring changes to Gary and Michigan City when completed in late 2022 or early 2023.
In Gary, part of U.S. 12 through the Miller area would be re-routed onto U.S. 20, and a new Miller station with high-level boarding platforms would be built.
In Michigan City, tracks embedded in 10th and 11th streets would be removed and replaced with new tracks on a parallel right of way. New high-level platforms and a parking garage would be built at the 11th Street station. Some street crossings would be closed, and others would get safety improvements.
Also, new high-level platforms would be built at the Portage/Ogden Dunes station, and four new bridges would be built along the route.
Noland said the South Shore could begin buying properties for the project in fall 2019.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority have backed the Double Track project enthusiastically, saying faster South Shore service would improve connections between Northwest Indiana and Chicago.
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