On Thursday October 6th, the South Shore Line invited the public to an open house presentation on their proposed Northwest Indiana Double Track Project. The open house was held at Michigan City’s City Hall. The open house was preceded by an hour long presentation by representatives of the South Shore Line and members of the state government.
“We’re not going to leave until all your questions are answered. We want to answer the important questions you want to ask.” said Michael Noland, General Manager of the South Shore Line. Noland was first to speak to those in attendance.
“I’m a Michigan City native and I’m proud to call it home. And I’m excited my home has this fantastic opportunity,” Noland continued. “This project will provide better on time performance to get people to Chicago for those higher paying jobs. And then we’ll get that money back here to spend it in our state.”
Noland and the South Shore Line estimates the 20-year impact from this project will result in 600 million dollars of private investment, the creation of 440 jobs, and increase property values by about $40 million for Michigan City. “But from a railroad point of view, I care about bringing better service to our riders,” Nolan commented.
The Northwest Indiana Double Track initiative involves adding a second track to their current line. The current single track is shared with freight trains, which frequently adds passengers already busy schedules. Riders of the South Shore Line can have their trains delayed if there is ever an issue on that one line. Currently, there are not enough opportunities for a train to pass a blockage on the track.
Representative Pete Visclosky was in attendance at the presentation and briefly spoke on the double track’s potential. “Transit is key to having renewed economic development,” Rep. Visclosky said. “Think of all the people you know that after military service, vocational training, or college, have left to go to better paying jobs (in other cities), but say 'I would like to come back home.' They will come back if we renew the transportation infrastructure of the South Shore.”
By doubling the track a passenger's trip time can become more reliable. The current amount of time to travel from Michigan City to Chicago is roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, compared to 1 hour and 20 minutes by car. The additional track would allow for the trip to be completed in just over one hour, making a train ride a more persuasive choice to commuters.
Senator Jim Arnold also spoke at the town meeting.
“The South Shore Line has been in Michigan City for about 108 years and to keep up with today’s demand and global economy you have to continually change over time. We know what this means economy-wise and we have to push this thing.” Arnold said that he knew there were environmental and social concerns about the new track, but urged listeners to proceed with an open mind.
As of now the project is in the Developmental Phase. This phase involves the look at environmental and social impacts. The phase can result in determining a locally preferred alternative if necessary. The environmental assessment will comply with national laws and work with local land management and the Army Corps of Engineers, if needed. The South Shore Line intends to keep Northwest Indiana’s environmental balance in place. For example if a wetland is impacted, the South Shore Line would have to replace that wetland by law.
For more information on the Northwest Indiana Double Track Project visit http://www.doubletrack-nwi.com/