“It’s a big idea,
no doubt about it. It would be a game-changer for this area,” Richard Riley
told the Porter Town Council.
And Porter could
benefit the most, he added, in part because significant economic development
often accompanies such endeavors.
president of the Indiana South Shore Heritage Foundation, and Indiana Dunes
Tourism executive director Lorelei Weimer asked council members Tuesday to
contribute $4,300 toward a study to determine the feasibility of using
donated historic South Shore passenger cars as either an operating tourism
shuttle or a moving or stationary display.
The council took no
action on the request Tuesday because Weimer suggested waiting until its
July 22 meeting when train collector Bob Harris, who would donate his
inventory of passenger cars and tracks, could be present.
Cost of the
feasibility study is $19,500. The Porter County Board of Commissioners and
the Town of Chesterton both have committed $4,300 to help fund it, and IDT
has pledged $6,500. Porter’s $4,300 contribution would allow the study to go
To be determined
are the pros and cons of operating a shuttle service between the South Shore
Dune Park train station on U.S. 12, the IDT visitor center on Indiana 49,
through Porter and into Chesterton, although getting to the latter as a
destination will be more complicated.
Weimer said there
may be an opportunity to extend the shuttle to the Indiana Dunes State Park,
where a future renovated beach pavillion could become a special destination.
Riley said if the
trolley can use existing rights-of-way under Interstate 94 and Indiana 49,
that will enable his group to move forward with an operating line.
As for a stationary
display site if that’s recommended, Riley said a location near the visitor
center is being considered.
The passengers are
already here, said Weimer; the Dunes state park and the federal Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore combined attract 3 million visitors annually who
could be encouraged to dine, shop and stay in local communities.
Other areas of the
country have used historic South Shore train cars as attractions, Weimer
noted, but “we’re not utilizing our own heritage in our back yard.”
Wodrich asked if future project grant requests would be viewed more
favorably with multi-agency support. Weimer said yes, and that Northwest
Indiana’s U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky and Senator Joe Donnelly have said no
federal appropriations or grants can happen unless a feasibility study is
ago Harris began assembling the train collection when a shuttle between Mt.
Baldy and Lighthouse Place outlet mall was proposed, but that never
materialized. Weimer said Harris won’t donate the South Shore equipment now
unless he’s assured it will be used.