Construction begins for ‘game changing’ South Shore Line Double Track project

June 21, 2022
Railroad, regional, state and federal officials helped mark the occasion for the project that will span nearly 27 miles.

One of Indiana’s largest projects - Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) Double Track Northwest Indiana - officially broke ground on June 21. The project, as the name suggests, includes double tracking 18 miles of the existing South Shore Line between Michigan City and Gary, Ind.

“The Double Track Project is transformative for Northwest Indiana and the positive impacts will be felt across the state for generations to come,” said Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, who included the project as a prominent piece of his Next Level Agenda. “This game changing project is another prime example of how Indiana is laser-focused on connecting people and businesses to our state’s exceptional quality of life, great communities, and pro-growth business environment.”

The Double Track Northwest Indiana project spans 26.6 miles and will see the construction of a new second track between Michigan City and Gary that will expand service. In addition to the second track, the project includes construction of four bridges, five stations, expanding parking lots at the stations and nine new platforms. The project will also deliver safety improvements with the closure of 21 grade crossings and the construction of two new ballasted tracks that will replace single street-running track in Michigan City.

The $650 million project is part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program and was awarded a $172.96 million Full Funding Grant Agreement in January 2021. The project originally entered the CIG Program as a Core Capacity Project, but left and re-entered the program as a New Starts Project in February 2020. The CIG Program project category switch was necessary because declining ridership in February 2019 would not make the Double Track project eligible for Core Capacity funding. When the project opens, daily linked trips are expected to be at 6,000 and are projected to grow to 9,700 daily linked trips by 2040.

“The NICTD Double Track Project is an example of planning and building for the future, today,” said Kelley Brookins, Region V FTA administrator. “The economic value of transit to American families, particularly now that gas is so expensive and to businesses who will see more consumers and employees using transit cannot be understated. What you are doing here is just the sort of transformative thinking President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg envision. Expand the South Shore Line -- a project that improves access, expands opportunity, and creates jobs -- is one very important part of this expansion.”

The project has received $100 million in New Starts appropriations through FY 2021. The remainder of the project cost will be funded with state contributions, Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority funds, contributions from Michigan City, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties and NICTD bonds.

“Double tracking the South Shore Line unlocks the true potential of this railroad and opens up vastly improved commuter rail service from northwest Indiana to Chicago and back,” said Michael Noland, president of the South Shore Line. “Reliability, more frequent service options, reduced time to market and safety enhancements are vital to the long-term success and will result in tremendous economic growth. We can’t thank our partners at the FTA enough as they have been with us at every step of this process. And profound gratitude to Governor Holcomb and our local, state and federal delegation for their support and leadership to get us to this great day.”

The groundbreaking for the South Shore Double Track project comes days after a second South Shor Line project, West Lake Corridor Commuter Rail Project, received a $203.3 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement loan.

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.