Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky were scheduled to be
the guest speakers at an event this afternoon to officially open the new
overpass into U.S. Steel’s Midwest plant, as well as to announce the
acquisition of 60 additional acres in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Visclosky called the land acquisition an example of his Marquette Park
project becoming a reality. As envisioned, the Marquette Project will open
access to 75 percent of the Indiana lakefront, largely by converting into
public use industrial property no longer needed.
The transaction between the National Park Service and U.S. Steel was
finalized last week. The Park Service is purchasing the 60.63 acres of
lakefront property, which is within the authorized boundaries of the
National Lakeshore but which currently houses a sewage treatment plant
serving the steel plant.
According to a press release about today’s event, Portage Mayor Doug Olson
crafted a deal with the National Park Service and U.S. Steel to tear down
the existing treatment plant and tie the steel mill into the city utilities
in order to free up the land for public use.
The new $6.1 million overpass, known as the South Shore Industrial Safety
Overpass (SSISO), replaces the at-grade intersection that was the site of a
triple fatality in June, 1998, when a South Shore passenger service train
collided with a truck hauling a steel coil.
As the truck crossed the South Shore tracks, the grade crossing signals for
the adjacent Conrail track activated, and the gates lowered in front of the
tractor. The driver stopped, causing his second trailer to stop on the
westbound South Shore tracks. The ongoing South Shore train lifted the truck
trailers, breaking the chain that secured the steel coil, which then rolled
35 feet into the train’s passenger compartment.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended permanent engineering
changes at the crossing, or else the crossing would be closed.
Visclosky, Kernan, and Olson were among those who spearheaded the
construction of the SSISO, as well as the acquisition of the U.S. Steel
land. In 2000, Visclosky secured $4.75 million in federal funding for the
overpass and Kernan, then as lieutenant governor, committed the additional
$1.3 million in state funding. The SSISO opened in May, with additional
local access roads to and from Ogden Dunes expected to be completed by this