History was made on Thursday morning as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb traveled to Michigan City to sign into law House Bill 1144, which establishes and permits the South Shore Line's main line double tracking and the West Lake Corridor improvement rail projects.
These transit development projects have, for quite some time, been front and center on the minds of state and local officials and regional development representatives, who were all in attendance to see their hard work finally come to fruition with the governor’s signature.
Holcomb arrived at the 11th Street Station in Michigan City before boarding a train that took him to the Carroll Street Station where the signing of H.B. 1144 took place. Holcomb, state & local legislators, and regional development representatives, who have worked tirelessly over the past several years lobbying for the rail improvement projects, arrived at the Carroll Street Station to much fanfare and enthusiasm from those in attendance.
Holcomb described the rail improvement projects, and the collaborative work that has gone into making this dream a reality, as historic and something that was long overdue.
“It turns out teamwork works,” said Governor Holcomb. “The Region packs such a powerful punch and it’s such an engine for our state. There is much more to do and we’ll have to take it step, by step, by step. This is not just one small step. This is a giant leap and that’s why it is so important to continue to bring people together and say, ‘Okay, now what’s next?’”
State Representative Hal Slager authored House Bill 1144 and spoke at the morning's signing ceremony.
“What you’re seeing is a group of people and stakeholders who have worked very hard over several years,” Representative Slager said. “This region has really struggled since the loss of heavy manufacturing, but I look at this project and this day as a real turning point where we have come together and developed a plan.”
State Representative Scott Pelath, who represents Michigan City, introduced Governor Holcomb. Before he did, he said, “In my 19 years in the Indiana General Assembly, this is the most gratifying piece of legislation I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on. It’s gratifying because it brought out the best in our state’s leadership and our state’s lawmakers. It took fellow Hoosiers sitting down together, working on a practical problem, and doing something that is unambiguously for the public good. This is going to allow Michigan City and, more broadly, Northwest Indiana to grow.”
“Sometimes it did seem like just a dream,” said Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer. “‘Will everybody ever get on the same page?’ Then, this last year, across party lines, you had the Governor backing it, you had Democrats and Republicans backing it, and people on the local level were all on the same page in La Porte County, which is a big deal.”
“We have people in communities that are communicating now that maybe weren’t before,” he added. “They’ve come together on a funding plan and a mechanism to back that plan up. We have members of the legislature that experienced the strength that we have in Northwest and North Central Indiana when we speak with one voice, and along the way, we’ve made a few new friends as well.”
“The initiatives that really help us build quality places are projects like the one right behind me, and that’s double tracking the South Shore Line and developing the West Lake Corridor,” Holcomb added. “These are the projects that are going to really build our communities and attract talent.”
Clarence Hulse, Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City, echoed Holcomb’s sentiments in saying, “It’s definitely a game-changer for Michigan City. This will significantly impact our talent pool and our ability to attract new talent and investment to Michigan City, and Northwest Indiana. We’re also grateful that the governor chose Michigan City as the place to sign this bill.”
Bill Hanna, CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority which has played a big part in securing the projects, said, “It is historic! In over 100 years, this (South Shore Line double tracking) and West Lake Corridor are the first big projects that we’ve seen like this.”
It has been an historic couple of years for Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland residents, noted Michael Noland, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District General Manager
“We actually started in 1908 so we’re, sort of, married to the Cubs’ World Series,” said Noland. “The last Cubs' World Series we started, and then they win last year and we get the double-tracking. We’re tied to the World Series, and hopefully, the Cubs don’t wait another 108 years!”
With this project, commuters on the South Shore Line will be able to get from downtown Michigan City to Millennium Park in Chicago in under an hour. By closer connecting Northwest Indiana to the Chicagoland area, the prospect of growth and development in the region will increase as people see Northwest Indiana as the ideal place to live, work, and play.