The Double Track NWI Project, a Region-wide initiative spanning from Gary to Michigan City, recently received federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The allocation of $50.6 million dollars from the FTA’s Federal Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program will see the expansion of the South Shore Line, providing Region residents with double the amount of public transportation options.
Indiana joins three other states—Arizona, Missouri, and New Jersey—in receiving funding from the CIG Program. Qualifications include the completion of two phases, Project Development and Engineering. In the first phase, Project Development, states must complete an environmental review and adopt any developments from the review into the final plan. The second phase, Engineering, which the Double Track NWI Project is currently in, the project must complete engineering and design. Once these two phases are complete, the project will move into the Full Funding Grant Agreement phase and begin construction.
As part of Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s Next Level Agenda, a state-wide plan to enhance the everyday lives of Hoosiers, the Double Track NWI project falls within the plan’s infrastructure goals. With the goal of expanding service to underserved areas in Indiana, the doubling of the South Shore Line comes just in time as the state and Region continues to battle COVID-19 and the virus’s negative impacts on the economy, transportation, and public health.
"These critical rail transit infrastructure projects will help communities improve transit service as they continue to address the impacts of COVID-19 and recover from this public health emergency," said FTA Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams.
“These aren’t just lofty goals – they are obtainable solutions to improve the lives of Hoosiers around Indiana,” Gov. Holcomb said in a press release detailing the Next Level Agenda’s goals.
The Double Track NWI spans over 26 miles from Gary to Michigan City, and will include the building of a second mainline track (a major development for the single track the South Shore Line has been in since it was built in 1908), the improvements and renovations of five stations along the line, an expansion of available parking spaces for commuters, and new platforms. Safety improvements will also be made at the Michigan City South Shore Line stop, specifically in ensuring the railway will be separated from the roadway and 21 at-grade crossings, or railway lines that cross a path or road, will be closed.
It will also enhance the connection Northwest Indiana has to Chicago. With many Hoosiers commuting to Chicago for work every day and Northwest Indiana being the industrial hotspot it’s been for decades, an increase in public transportation service from Region cities and Chicago will “rebuild the middle class in Northwest Indiana by enabling residents to participate more fully in the third-largest regional economy in the United States,” according to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) 20-Year Strategic Business Plan from 2014 that outlines the proposed changes to the South Shore Line.
According to the NICTD, South Shore Line ridership will more than double as the commute times reduce.
The allocation of the funds from the FTA signal an understanding of how the Region continues to grow and be a desired place to live and work. Thanks to the work organizations like the NICTD is doing, the Region’s access to quality and dependable public transportation showcases the growth that is happening despite months of uncertainty.
According to the NICTD, the Double Track NWI Project, along with the West Lake Corridor Project, will see a combined intake of $2.3 billion in private investments for Northwest Indiana, resulting in a major increase of career opportunities and a positive impact on the Region’s economy.
For more information about the Double Track NWI Project, please visit the South Shore Line’s website here: https://www.doubletrack-nwi.com/
For more information about the Capital Investment Grant Program, visit the FTA’s website here:https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/us-transportation-secretary-elaine-l-chao-announces-400-million-federal-funding