The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority has found its next
regional project, pledging Friday to help the Northern Indiana
Transportation Commuter District create a new 15-year business plan.
The goal would be economic development, making it easier for NWI residents
to commute to their workplaces like in Chicago, RDA President Bill Hanna
NICTD General Manager Gerald Hanas said the plan will act as a “blueprint”
for the South Shore Line on how to improve its existing assets and possible
A working group of both NICTD and RDA members will be formed to begin the
study for the plan and determine its scope. Hanas estimated the price tag
for the effort will be about $500,000 and would be funded equally by both
Items the study will look at include fix-ups to the South Bend station,
quicker routes in Michigan City and moving forward with the West Lake
expansion proposed to extend lines into the cities of Lowell and Valparaiso.
The new improvements will hopefully bring quicker travel times and customer
convenience, Hanas said.
Hanna said the plan will be done similarly to the RDA’s plan a few years ago
to expand and revamp the runway at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
“Having a level of commitment like that is a very power thing,” he said.
The plan will also attempt to collaborate with city bus systems.
The NICTD board approved the ordinance 8-1 with one disapproving vote from
Robert Kovach of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners who said he
was still weary at the possibility of another agency taking over city
“We have no problems with our busses,” he said.
Those approving the measure included NICTD board member Laura Blaney who is
the Porter County Council’s appointed representative. The Porter County
Commissioner representative, Northern Commissioner John Evans, was absent
Also on Friday, the NICTD board approved a separate ordinance to link up the
Munster and Hammond bike trails by building a bridge over the Little Calumet
River through a memorandum of understanding.
precautions slowing trains
The stifling heat in this summer’s dog days is causing South Shore
passengers’ tempers to rise due to longer travel times and delays, Hanas
Trains are slowing their speeds from 79 miles per hour to 55 when the rail
heads reach temperatures of about 130 degrees in order to minimize the
rails’ susceptibilities to “sun kinks,” a condition when the rail is warped
or bent by the compressive forces of the sun’s heat.
A freight train derailment on the Union Pacific Railroad in Glenview, Ill.
that resulted in two deaths earlier this month was reported to have been
caused by a sun kink. Reduced speeds is one way railroads can try to avoid
sun kinks which are not entirely preventable.
Hanas said train delays are exacerbated by train meets in a single track.
“We’ve received a lot of complaints but it’s an issue of safety,” said Hanas.
“It’s a matter of safety first.
July’s 90-degree temperatures extended to a span of 16 days with three days
in the triple digits. Last year in July, only nine days were recorded with
temperatures exceeding 90 degrees.
On-time performance is down by 10 percent this year in the morning rush hour
with 85 percent of trains remaining punctual but during the afternoon only
about 60 percent on-time.
NICTD Marketing Director John Parsons said despite the stress of a hotter
summer, ridership numbers are up and holding steady with 1,820,741 riders in
June compared to 1,800,565 in 2011.
Trains carried 52 percent fewer passengers during the time of the NATO
summit, Parsons said, and a couple of more moves by the City of Chicago have
stymied ridership. The mayor had moved the Taste of Chicago from the ten
days before the July 4th holiday to just five days in mid-July.
Parsons said NICTD is expecting strong numbers for late summer events like
Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park Aug. 3-5 and the
Superboat Grand Prix in Michigan City that same weekend. NICTD will not be
allowing alcohol on trains Aug. 4 and 5 and not after 6 p.m. on Aug. 3,
More highlights on the horizon are the Chicago Air and Water Show, Aug. 18
and 19, and the Notre Dame home games starting Sept. 8.
Parsons further commented the trains’ air conditioning units have been
stressed because of high ambient temps but have held up better this year
In other business, the board approved the purchase of three new
turnouts/switches and a new crossover for the tracks near the Dune Park
station for $430,730.
NICTD Purchasing Manager Randy Welch said bids were requested a second time
and came in $31,000 lower than before from Progress Rail Services of
Woodridge, Ill., who was awarded the project.
Welch said he expects the turnouts will be operable by April, the same time
construction is expected to be finished on the station’s proposed high level
platform that is said to reduce 4 to 5 minute stop times to less than a
Engineering work to be performed by URS Corporation of Chicago for the
platform was approved by the board at its June 1 meeting.
Bids for construction will be recommended in November, Welch said.
Dune Park is currently the highest utilized South Shore station without a
high level platform.
Hanas also reported there is a preliminary consensus with the Michigan City
Council and NICTD officials to move the South Shore tracks north to Michigan
Blvd. (U.S. Highway 12) near city hall, which could bring more business
development to that area.
Both parties agree that consolidating the city’s two stops into one would
mean faster travel times and reduced traffic, Hanas said.