Indiana Commuter Transportation District has known for some time what the
West Lake Extension to the South Shore commuter line will look like, at
least in the broadest terms.
A spur reaching
south into Lake County not quite 20 miles, from Hammond to Dyer. It will run
along a previously abandoned railroad line and include at least four
stations: in Downtown Hammond, South Hammond, in Munster at 45h Ave. or
Fisher Street, and in Dyer on Main Street.
How this spur will
actually connect to the existing South Shore line, however, has been an open
options have been considered:
¥A shorter link at
2.1 miles, the so-called Hegewisch alternative, beginning in Downtown
Hammond and passing under the Hohman Ave. Bridge, then--elevated above grade
to fly over the Indiana Harbor Belt (IHB) railroad line, the Grand Calumet
River, the CSX line, and the Norfolk Southern line--in a generally northerly
direction to the South Shore junction at the Burnham Yard at Hegewisch.
significantly longer link at 5.31 miles, the so-called IHB/Kensington Branch
alternative, beginning in roughly the same place but using the IHB trackage
and following its northwesterly run, until connecting to the existing South
Shore line not far east of where it joins the Metra line.
Board of Directors was going to need to plump for one or the other.
And--prompted by the Federal Transit Administration’s wanting a formal
delineation of any wetlands along the connection route--the board made a
decision at its meeting last week, voting unanimously to “narrow” the West
Lake Extension’s focus to the Hegewisch alternative.
The board did
something else as well: it voted to defer, for now, a six-mile continuation
of the West Lake Extension south to St. John.
The board based
both decisions on the recommendations of AECOM, the project’s contracted
alternative, as the shorter of the two connection routes by far, would cost
less to build, operate, and maintain. The IHB alternative, on the other
hand--besides the additional expenses associated with its greater
length--would require the construction of more flyover than the Hegewisch
will, require too an additional engineering solution to a field of
high-tension wires along the route, and entail the negotiation of an
agreement with the IHB line.
assessment of a St. John continuation came down to this cost/benefit
calculation: although it would likely increase ridership by 11 percent, at
the same time it would increase capital costs by 33 percent, that is, add
$200 million to the price tag.
Then, in a third
vote, the board agreed to increase AECOM’s contract price by $205,695, to a
total of $2,270,165, to cover a broadening of the firm’s project scope.
Among other things, AECOM will undertake the FTA’s wetland delineation as
well as a noise and vibration analysis; it will also perform some
right-of-way work and be tasked with “public and community engagement.”
In other business,
General Manager Michael Noland reported that NICTD is applying for a TIGER
grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) from the U.S.
Department of Transportation, to fund the installation of the last 20 miles
of new concatenary wire.
Five miles of the
old, brittle wire have already been replaced and six more miles will be
strung this summer, leaving the final 20 or so still in need of replacement,
The TIGER grant
would also fund the extension of the Birchim siding, 19 miles west of South
Bend, by 4,500 feet.