Chesterton Tribune

NICTD begins design for Dune Park highboarding platform

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By PAULENE POPARAD

South Shore officials approved a not-to-exceed $415,000 contract Friday with URS Corp. of Chicago to design a high-boarding platform at Dune Park Station that will cut dwell time and improve passenger access. Actual platform construction is expected to take place in 2013 and cost about $3 million.

Railroad officials are considering building a pedestrian walkway through the woods from the east parking lot to the new boarding platform so passengers don’t have to walk along an access road.

In addition, staff are considering proposed changes to Dune Park’s designated one-way east entrance making it an exit onto U.S. 12 also.

Chris Beck of the railroad’s Engineering Department told directors of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District that Dune Park is the South Shore’s busiest station without a high-level boarding platform. Per weekday more than 500 passengers board there and about 700 during the summer.

The new, canopied platform would extend from the station at the same elevation north to the train tracks; all train doors would open; long lines waiting to climb steps would be eliminated; and those with strollers, luggage or in wheelchairs will have easier access. Instead of taking three or four minutes for a typical train to board (seven minutes if using a wheelchair lift), passengers should be on their way in about 45 seconds.

Dune Park, built in 1985, is based on historic South Shore station architecture. URS Corp. plans to consult the original Dune Park architect on the boarding platform design.

Regarding two bridge projects, the NICTD board approved maximum contracts of $385,000 with DLZ of South Bend to design a new Trail Creek bridge, and $540,000 with R.W. Armstrong of South Bend to design a wider Lake Park Bridge with improved clearances on the south side of Hudson Lake.

NATO’S gain NICTD’s loss

NICTD general manager Gerald Hanas said the South Shore lost more than $100,000 due to the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago. The railroad is attempting to seek reimbursement.

NICTD had 52 percent fewer passengers riding Friday through Monday of the summit resulting in a $23,000 loss on one-way ticket sales; NICTD also had to hire 103 part-time police officers from 25 area police agencies at a cost of $55,605.

Certain South Shore stops and Metra stations in Illinois were closed by order of federal agencies for the protection of world leaders attending the summit. NICTD canceled 11 trains on Monday and what trains that did run had to have extra security on board and at stations.

Hanas thanked both NICTD transit police chief Bob Byrd for his leadership that resulted in no trains being rejected, and South Shore passengers for their cooperation. During public comment South Shore rider Bernie Holicky of Chesterton told the board, “I give them an A+” for the way NICTD handled the situation.

New METRA agreement OK’d

NICTD directors approved a new five-year agreement with Metra allowing South Shore passenger trains the right to use 14 miles of Metra’s trackage and facilities in Illinois including downtown Millennium Station.

NICTD’s payment to Metra for 2012 is $6.2 million and increases annually to $7 million by 2016.

Directors also approved a new pact with Metra to reimburse the South Shore for carrying passengers boarding at the Hegewisch Station in Illinois; the cost to Metra is $3.7 million per year through 2016, about $500,000 less than before.

In other business, Hanas presented details of an ongoing study to relocate the South Shore’s tracks off city streets and onto a new route through Michigan City. Two options remain viable and railroad management is working with city officials to coordinate economic development and construction of a modern NICTD station there as part of the relocation.

Tracey McElree of AC Incorporated of Valparaiso updated board members on the South Shore’s web-based marketing campaign informing passengers how to ride, what to expect, train schedules and how to get to destination attractions. McElree said 39,884 people have visited the site, and 3,343 riders communicate monthly using Twitter and Facebook.

NICTD director of marketing and planning John Parsons reported total passengers through May topped 1.5 million this year, a 2.7 percent increase despite the four-day NATO summit interruptions. Strongest ridership increase was in off-peak travel, up 4.9 percent.

 

 

Posted 6/4/2012