Chesterton Tribune

 

 

NICTD West Lake rail plan gets federal OK to move forward

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The West Lake Corridor extension of the South Shore commuter line has been granted approval by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to officially enter “project development.”

The West Lake Corridor project--estimated to cost $563 million--would extend the South Shore line along the former Monon Railroad corridor from Hammond to Main Street along the border between Munster and Dyer..

“The project is expected to cut down commute time to Chicago, add another 6,500 daily riders, and enhance development opportunities in and around the communities served by West Lake,” the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District said.

In advance of the FTA’s announcement on Wednesday, the NICTD Board of Directors approved, at its meeting last week, a $20-million contract with HDR Inc. to undertake all project development elements including preliminary engineering, completing a final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision, and preparing all documentation required to receive a satisfactory project rating from the FTA next fall.

In August the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority approved NICTD’s request from NICTD to fund the entire cost of the HDR contract.

NICTD and the FTA have spent the last two years preparing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the West Lake Corridor project and expect to have the document ready for public review and comment later this year.

“NICTD’s goal is to seek a project rating from the FTA for West Lake in late 2017,” NICTD said. “If successful, the rating would lead to a funding recommendation in the president's 2019 budget. Once approved by Congress, construction could begin in 2019/2020, with the start of service in 2022.”

“This is an exciting time for Northwest Indiana as we seek funding to build another track between Gary and Michigan City and work towards expanding the railroad to Dyer,” NICTD General Manager Michale Noland said. “These infrastructure investments are fundamental prerequisites to attracting new private development throughout the four-county region served by the South Shore Line.”

“This is a key step toward completion of the West Lake expansion of the South Shore line,” RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said. “We are now closer than ever before to the largest commuter rail investment in Indiana history--an investment that will create thousands of jobs in Northwest Indiana and provide world-class access to Chicago, the ninth-largest economy on the planet.”

“I am excited to learn that the FTA has recognized the value of the South Shore expansion through this designation,” said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st.

“It is another successful step forward to not just expand South Shore service, but to build a regional economy that provides innumerable benefits for current Northwest Indiana residents and future generations. I have no doubt that the success of this designation is due to the resilient efforts of NICTD, as well as the RDA, the State of Indiana, and all of the contributing communities. Their collective support has generated this outstanding forward momentum.”

 

 

 

Posted 9/29/2016

 
 
 
 

 

 

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