South Shore West Lake Corridor project breaks ground, finalizes $345.5 million FFGA

Oct. 29, 2020
The rail project will extend NICTD’s South Shore Line 7.8 miles from Hammond to Dyer, Ind.

The largest public transit investment project in Indiana history began construction and signed a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Oct. 28.

The virtual groundbreaking and FFGA signing event was called “a historic day for this railroad 30 years in the making” by Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) President Michael Noland.

The West Lake Corridor Project will extend the South Shore rail line 7.8 miles from Hammond to Dyer and add four stations. When completed, the service will provide a 45-minute direct rail connection between Lake County and downtown Chicago. Noland noted at the event that a car trip between the two locations could not meet the same travel time.

“As Hoosiers, we’ve never shied away from doing big things, never shied away from making history and that’s exactly what we’re doing here today as we make more historic progress and bring commuter rail through the heart of Lake County,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. “When this is complete, it’ll link the region to the third biggest economy in the nation and that’s going to rapidly accelerate northwest Indiana’s continuing forward momentum.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams appeared virtually as a precautionary measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Acting Administrator Williams signed a $354.6-million FFGA with NICTD for the West Lake Corridor Project.

"This $354.6 million federal infrastructure grant will better connect Northern Indiana residents to jobs, education and critical services," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The federal funding represents 38 percent of the $944.6-million project cost and is being provided through the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program. In addition to the CIG funds, the project is being supported by local and state investments.

"FTA is proud to join our partners in northern Indiana to improve public transportation and support economic recovery," said Acting Administrator Williams. "Commuters on the South Shore Line can now look forward to faster and more efficient transit service connecting them to major employers in Chicago, enhancing opportunities for Lake County residents while encouraging economic development locally."

Earlier this summer, a joint venture of F.H. Paschen and Ragnar Benson was awarded the design-build contract for the West Lake Corridor Project. Revenue service is expected to begin in 2025.

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.