The Northwest Indiana Rail Vision Working Group has included the 15th Street
railroad crossing in Chesterton between Broadway and Woodlawn on its list of
crossings targeted for grade separation.
At the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation
Policy Committee meeting on Tuesday, planner Tom Vander Woude of the NWI
Rail Vision Working Group displayed the group’s priorities for 14 crossing
areas deemed to be problematic, most of which are in Lake County. The agency
cites the 15th Street as a priority since it converges the Norfolk South
rail, the CSX rail and the Amtrak rail at the Porter Junction.
The item is asterisked, however, indicating that there may be more
appropriate alternatives to grade separation given the crossing is in a
congested area due to the number of freight trains moving through.
“It’s the second busiest crossing in Indiana,” said Vander Woude.
Agencies are working to make lines smoother throughout Northwest Indiana and
Chicago with projects such as the CREATE program, as the amount of
transported freight is expected to double in the next 30 years.
Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton, who sits on the NIRPC executive
board, said the multiple crossings lie on a major school bus route and are
used by the town’s emergency response vehicles. He was relieved to see the
rail vision group putting plans together to make the crossing more
“It’s a problem that has been going on. It’s easy to find the problem but it
is not easy to find a solution,” said Ton.
The tracks also lie close to the new Chesterton Municipal Building, Ton
Vander Woude said no definite timeline has been set on when crews would
start the regrading or restructuring. Support would also need to come from
local governments and its constituents.
The rail vision working group hopes to move ahead after the upcoming meeting
on Jan. 18 at the NIRPC building.
The group originally started with a list of 60 crossing areas and with input
from local government officials prioritized by measuring the amount of train
traffic, automobile and truck traffic and hazard ratings from the Federal
Railroad Administration. Other listed areas include the CSX crossing on Ind.
149 north of the Toll Road and Tower Road (CR 250W) near Valparaiso.
The amount of funding has not been set yet, but Van Woude said the area is a
potential site for a high speed rail project through Northwest Indiana, also
known as the Indiana Gateway Project, which has been awarded a $71.1 million
grant. The money will not be used for grade separation but for putting up
new sidings along the Porter Junction.
Work is almost set to go on another crossing where Indian Boundary Rd. and
Calumet Rd. merge. Ton also said the Town of Chesterton received a $170,000
grant from NIRPC for engineering work at the crossing which he called
“confusing” for approaching motorists and that the new plan will have an
The project should begin in a matter of months once the contracts have been
approved, Ton said.
NIRPC’s master plan for the next 30 years were made available to local
officials by means of a summary book and computer disk.
Transportation Planner Bill Brown said the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan
is the result of a three-year effort by NIRPC members who kicked off the
process of assembling the plan in December 2008 and wrapped up last summer.
“It took a lot
of time and a lot of work,” Brown said.
The CRP expands
the role NIRPC plays in regional initiatives, broadening its focus to
include not only transportation, but environmental protection, human and
economic resources, growth, stewardship and governance.
principles support urban reinvestment to “revitalize these core communities
to achieve regional prosperity by 2040,” improving mobility for low-income
residents, protecting air and water resources and enhancing public transit.
Lake, Porter and
LaPorte counties are expected to see a 170,000 population increase by the
year 2040 and the CRP aims to provide jobs for the additional residents.
Framework strategies for urban areas call for more affordable housing by
rehabilitating neighborhoods, developing “livable centers” where areas will
have increased walkability and mixed uses.
Air quality must
also be maintained to ensure the productivity of the people and businesses
in the region, the plan says. NIRPC will extend more education to the public
on clean air actions and call for continued emissions testing on vehicles.
The agency also recognizes the more prevalent use of alternative fuels and
wishes to see those become more readily available.
The CRP outlines
a green infrastructure network to protect Northwest Indiana’s 315 natural
and recreational areas and identify land suitable for developing as open
Ton said he is
excited to use the CRP for further development of recreational trails like
the Dunes-Kankakee Trail that follow the county line and possibly branch off
in the downtown areas of Chesterton and Porter, attracting more people and