Indiana Transportation Commuter District board Friday agreed to endorse the
West Lake Commuter Trail Extension and to get behind 1st District U.S. Rep.
Pete Visclosky’s push for local governments in Lake County to commit funds
for federal matches.
manager Gerald Hanas said the resolution is to thank Visclosky for “working
tirelessly” over the past few months lobbying Lake County municipal
officials to commit to the 8-mile extension from Hammond into Dyer.
Local funds are to
provide a 50/50 match for federal funds available through the Federal
Transit Administration’s New Start program. The total cost of the expansion
is estimated at $571 million.
Hanas said this is
the “second major step” for the extension. The Northwest Indiana Regional
Development Authority in February said it will be committing $8 million
annually toward the project.
Some, but not all,
of the Lake County governments have joined the effort.
NICTD believes the
West Lake Corridor will bring “economic, social and transportation benefits”
and recognizes a “substantial commitment” of local financial resources is
required to finance the new rail project from Lake County.
Visclosky has urged
action after years of delays. He has said that the extension is essential
for keeping the brightest citizens here in Northwest Indiana by providing
them transportation to their jobs.
All directors voted
in favor of the resolution including Porter County Commissioner John Evans,
R-North, and Porter County Councilwoman Sylvia Graham, D-at large.
Graham said the only way she supports this is “under the assurance there
will be no tax on any other counties to pay for this.” She wishes to study
the strategic business plan for the project which will be further discussed
at the board’s May meeting.
The board also
approved the NICTD’s staff recommendation to hire AECOM, headquartered in
Los Angles with a Chicago office, to deliver a draft of the environmental
impact study needed prior to West Lake’s Phase 1 construction.
NICTD has set aside
$1.9 million of its own funds for the study while the RDA has provided a
$1.1 million grant for a total of $3 million. The study is expected to be
complete by the end of 2015.
AECOM is the same
company hired by the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority to
complete an environmental impact study on its $166 million expansion.
According to a
slide presentation, Hanas said with the environmental statement finalized,
project development for West Lake can start in 2016. Engineering is
projected to begin in 2018 and construction would start two years after.
Service could begin as early as 2023, Hanas said.
Tabled from last
meeting, the board renewed its marketing contract with AC Inc., of
Valparaiso, for $135,000. The firm is to expand NICTD’s social media
presence and develop a public relations plan, as well as paid-media
Other bids awarded
were $1.1 million for the replacement of the railroad bridge over Hudson
Lake in LaPorte County that was struck by a waste removal truck last year.
The bid is from JCI Bridges of LaPorte.
For the delivery of
railroad catenary wire material, a bid of $309,020 from Wesco Distribution
of Hammond was accepted. L.B. Foster of Pittsburg had its bid approved for
delivery of welded rail at $157,264. For rubber reseal, a bid of $228,690
from Polycorp Elora of Ontario was approved. For Propulsion-Inverter/Module
Replacement, a bid of $879,500 from Toshiba International Corporation of
Houston was approved.
Also Friday, the
board heard Hanas discuss plans and progress for the South Bend realignment
project that would save 10-15 minutes of commute time by trimming 2.7 miles
The board also
watched a video highlighting the Michigan City track alignment project and
station consolidation that will be posted on the NICTD website.
The third snowiest
winter on record since 1871, and one of the top 5 percent in coldest, proved
a challenge to the South Shore Line, NICTD Director of Marketing John
declined by 9.7 percent over last year and trains were canceled entirely on
Jan. 6 because of a major snow storm and sub-zero temperatures.
Parsons said that
weekends were especially slow, averaging 2,609 passengers per day, a decline
of 23.6 percent compared to last January. “People just avoided outside
activity if they could. They stayed home on weekends,” he said.
Despite all the
weather obstacles, trains were running on time 77.4 percent of the time in
January and 84.9 percent were within ten minutes of their scheduled time.
NICTD Board member
and Lake County Commissioner Michael Repay said that considering how bad
road conditions and delays were for vehicle traffic, the fact that 90
percent of trains were within 15 minutes of their scheduled time is an
“It’s a testament
to the staff and employees of NICTD,” Repay said.
were closer to last year with just a 3.4 percent decline, averaging 11,375
passengers per day. Trains, however, were running less on-time with just
71.6 percent, but 90 percent arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled
March’s figures may be up compared to last year as temperatures climb. For
the week of March 17-23 ridership was 5.4 percent above 2013.
temperatures rise back to normal, we anticipate daily ridership will get
back to regular levels by summer,” he said.
coming up are the opening days for the Chicago White Sox (March 31) and Cubs
(April 4). Trains will run their normal weekday schedule on Good Friday,
April 18, but will run on holiday schedule during Memorial Day on May 26,