Chesterton Tribune


INDOT receives $71.3 million in federal funds for rail upgrades; Porter chokepoint to be opened

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U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, has announced the award of over $71.3 million in federal funds to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for the Indiana Gateway project, aimed at reducing congestion and improving the flow of goods and passengers through Northwest Indiana.

Among the eight projects receiving funding: the construction of a siding in the Town of Porter, a notorious chokepoint in what INDOT has called the most “delay-prone intercity rail passenger corridor in the country.”

The funds—originally allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)—will address “critical needs” on the Norfolk Southern Railroad’s Chicago Line and the Amtrak Michigan Line, according to a statement released on Wednesday by Visclosky’s office. The work will include track relocation, track reconfiguration, high-speed crossovers, and improvements to signal systems. It will also allow for minor rail additions and a new parallel passing siding.

Said Mark Maassel, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum, “We are truly pleased to see the funding for these projects move ahead, as they will dramatically improve the ease with which train traffic will move through Northwest Indiana.”

Northwest Indiana Building and Construction Trades Union Business Manager Randy Palmateer said that the infrastructure investments will create new jobs and strengthen the region’s economy. “Thanks to the Indiana Gateway project, working families in Northwest Indiana will be able to count on good-paying jobs and a strong infrastructure that will support a thriving economy long into the future. Projects like this are good for workers, good for business and good for Northwest Indiana’s long-term economic growth.”

“No economy can grow faster than its transportation network allows,” noted Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. “The investment we’re making in Indiana today will eliminate chokepoints and help both people and goods get where they need to go faster and more efficiently.”

The benefits to the region will be many, added Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority President and CEO Bill Hanna. “The Indiana Gateway Project will provide much-needed rail improvements in Northwest Indiana, which is one of the most congested rail corridors in the country. It will speed travel times for freight and passenger trains and provide greater access to Chicago for both people and goods. Projects like this create jobs immediately, boost long-term career opportunities for residents, and make the region itself more attractive to companies looking to relocate operations or build new facilities.”

“As a hub of freight and passenger rail commerce for the rest of the nation, Northwest Indiana’s economic success depends on the quality of our rail infrastructure,” Visclosky said. “The Indiana Gateway project will create jobs in the short-term, improve the transport of passengers and cargo in the mid-term, and build a foundation for a thriving rail infrastructure and a sound regional economy in the long-term. I commend the hard work of the Federal Railroad Administration, the Norfolk-Southern Railroad, Amtrak, and the State of Indiana to bring this project to fruition.”


Project details, according to INDOT’s 2009 application for ARRA funding:

•Total cost: $71,364,980. No State of Indiana match required.

•Construction duration: 20 months.

•Job created during construction: 703. Calculation based on one man-year of employment resulting from every $100,000 investment in infrastructure.

•Project boundaries: a 29.3 mile stretch from a point just east of the Town of Porter to the Illinois state line. The project will address “the single most delay-prone intercity rail passenger corridor in the country, and do so in a way that provides both stand-alone congestion relief benefits as well as a path towards development of the lane as a high-speed corridor with the Chicago Hub Network.”

•Fourteen Amtrak trains traverse the corridor every day, including the Blue Water, the Wolverine, and the Pere Marquette from Chicago to Detroit; the Lake Shore Limited, from New York/Boston to Chicago; and the Capitol Limited, from Washington, D.C. to Chicago.

•An average of 87 freight trains also traverse the corridor daily.

•Project parameters: eight separate jobs, seven on the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line and one on the Amtrak Michigan Line, the latter in Porter. Improvements include relocation, reconfiguration, the addition of high-speed crossovers and related signal improvements, and the creation—in Porter—of a new parallel passing siding.

•“All work, including the minor rail line additions, will take place within the existing railroad right-of-way. No use of public lands or property will be required.”

•Projected benefits: an 11.6-minute or 24-percent reduction in delay times for all train types; an average increased speed of 3.7 mph or 6.6 percent for Amtrak trains; a reduction in cumulative hours of stop/delay time per week of 1.4 hours or 61 percent.

•One full year after project completion, the average scheduled operating speed for will have increased from 55.8 mph to 59.5 mph.; and the minutes of en-route delays per 10,000 train-miles will have been reduced from 4,700 to 3,540.

Public Meeting Tonight

The Indiana Gateway will be the subject of a public meeting later today, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the City Hall in Michigan City, at 100 E. Michigan Blvd.

A presentation on the project will be given at 4:30 p.m. and then again at 6:30 p.m.



Posted 9/13/2012