Chesterton Tribune

NATO summit in Chicago may halt South Shore service for two days

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The South Shore is awaiting a decision by the U.S. Secret Service whether it will order the passenger line to suspend service May 20 and 21 while more than 50 world leaders are attending a NATO summit in Chicago.

Tracks for the South Shore, Metra and Canadian National railroads all run under McCormick Place, where the closed summit will take place.

According to the official Chicago NATO website, it’s the first time the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will meet in an American city other than Washington D.C.

South Shore general manager Gerald Hanas said the railroad’s been told it will not be able to stop at McCormick Place, but the most extreme security measure would be cessation of service for all three railroads both days and possibly May 19 as well.

Following Friday’s meeting of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, Hanas said, “We’ve never dealt with one of these (national security events) before.” He’s asked the Secret Service for at least 30 days notice of its decision but has no idea when it might come; passengers will be alerted to any changes as soon as possible.

If service is halted, Hanas said it won’t be possible to transfer passengers from trains and bus them around McCormick Place. On an average weekday the South Shore carries about 12,000 riders, most headed to and from downtown Chicago. The Crosstown Classic baseball games between the the Chicago Cubs and White Sox take place May 18-20 generating about 1,000 additional riders per game.

Hanas said NICTD has to explore whether the railroad can be compensated by the federal government for lost revenue should a South Shore shutdown be ordered.

Dune Park traffic changes?

At the next meeting traffic engineers from DLZ will give NICTD board members cost estimates and options regarding possible changes to traffic flow at the Dune Park train station north of U.S. 12 east of Indiana 49.

Earlier this year Chesterton resident Bernie Holicky said the Dune Park traffic pattern is confusing and asked for better signage.

The original design for the station is a one-way loop with the far east entrance off U.S. 12 an enter-only, but motorists often exit on the narrow drive. Likewise, some motorists travel against traffic from the west parking lot to the east lot on what is supposed to be a one-way connector aisle creating a problem of sight distances for oncoming traffic.

Hanas laid out a number of possibilities including widening the east entrance road to a full entrance/exit and widening the connector aisle to accomodate two-way traffic.

In other business, on the recommendation of NICTD purchasing manager Randy Welch the board approved a $2,081,000 contract with Era Valdivia Contractors of Chicago to sandblast and paint the railroad bridge over the Grand Calumet River west of Gary. The work must be done by hand and will be completed in 2013.

Welch said salt from the Indiana Toll Road washes off onto the bridge eating away the paint.

Of the more than 1,700 feet to be painted, 1,473 feet are over water. Crews will have to be suspended from the bridge to work, said Welch, because permission to use barges wasn’t given.

Ridership sees a boost

NICTD marketing director John Parsons said ridership in three key categories is up for a total 5.7 percent increase this year, in part helped by February’s extra Leap Year day.

A reviving economy, unseasonably warm weather and the surging price of gasoline factored into the ridership boost as well, said Parsons, and 4,200 more riders than 2010 took the train March 17 on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Next week it’s Katie bar the door,” said Parsons, citing a large number of area schools on spring break and the Cubs opening-day home series. He reminded passengers that Good Friday trains will operate on a weekday schedule.

 

 

Posted 4/2/2012