NICTD’s West Lake Corridor Project cleared to enter New Starts Engineering phase

Oct. 8, 2019
The FTA’s approval to move into the New Starts Engineering phase of the Capital Investment Grant program will allow design to begin on the project.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) West Lake Corridor Project to enter the New Starts Engineering phase of the Capital Investment Grant program.  

The approval will allow NICTD to begin design and engineering on the project, which plans to extend the existing South Shore Line south to reach high-growth areas in Lake County, Ind. NICTD says the project would expand its service coverage, improve mobility and accessibility and stimulate local job creation and economic development opportunities for Lake County. The project would include four new stations along an eight-mile extension between Hammond and Dyer, Ind., and would also build a new maintenance facility.

"Extending rail service will save Hoosiers both time and money - but it's also a critical part of our efforts to strengthen our economy and attract new residents," Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said. "I'm grateful that local, state and federal leaders have come together to connect northwest Indiana to the nation's third-largest city and beyond so that our workforce and our businesses will be able to mutually grow."

The current state budget, which Gov. Holcomb signed into law earlier this year, doubles the state's investment in northwest Indiana rail by dedicating $185 million more to projects and includes an additional $20 million in a contingency fund.

The West Lake Corridor Project is occurring in partnership with the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) and the Indiana Finance Authority, who are serving as funding partners.

Both U.S. Senators from Indiana, Todd Young (R-IN) and Mike Braun (R-IN), noted the development would create jobs and economic opportunity for the state.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN-01) called the project “transformational” and vowed to help secure necessary funding from all local parties to support a federal grant for the project.

In addition to the West Lake Corridor project, NICTD, the RDA and the Indiana Finance Authority said they would continue to work with state and federal authorities on advancing towards federal funding for the second major commuter rail expansion project in the region, the Double Track Northwest Indiana Project. The project is a 25-mile corridor improvement project, which includes 17 miles of new track construction, four new bridges, high-level platforms at three stations, the elimination of street-running rail in Michigan City and the closure of 21 grade crossings.

"We are truly excited to announce that the West Lake Corridor project has reached this critical milestone in the FTA's Capital Investment Grant program," said Michael Noland, President and CEO of NICTD. "The continued hard work of the project team and the full support of Governor Holcomb, the Indiana General Assembly and our Hoosier congressional delegation is reflected in reaching this critical milestone."

Combined, the Double Track Northwest Indiana and West Lake Corridor projects are projected to attract approximately $2.3 billion in private investment to Northwest Indiana, and result in more than 6,000 new jobs and $3 billion in economic impact by 2048.

"These projects will be game-changers for the region and the state," said Bill Hanna, president and CEO of the RDA. "By increasing our connectivity to Chicago, the third-largest metro area in the country, commuter rail will drive job creation and economic development here in Northwest Indiana and provide a much better opportunity for residents to compete for high­ paying jobs in Chicago."

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.