Ribbon cut to mark completion of NICTD Double Track NWI Project

May 14, 2024
The 26.6 miles of new second track will allow the operation of an additional 14 weekday trains on the South Shore Line, which connects Northwest Indiana to Chicago.

Officials gathered on May 13 to cut the ribbon on Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) Double Track Northwest Indiana project, which will expand passenger service on the South Shore Line and is one of the largest public transit investments in the state’s history. 

“One hundred years later, this Double Track Project will continue to transform Northwest Indiana for generations to come,” Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said. “This game-changing project is yet another example of how the state of Indiana continues to make targeted investments that attract talent and commercial investment that in turn helps our communities take it to their next level.”

The project, which broke ground in June 2022 saw the construction of 26.6 miles of new second track between Gary and Michigan City, Ind., two miles of completely new right-of-way in Michigan City, platform reconfigurations at five stations, construction of 1,475 additional parking spaces, a new overhead catenary power system and reconstruction of 22 at-grade crossings and 20 culverts. Safety along the entire alignment will be improved with the elimination of 20 at-grade crossings and removal of street-running track. 

“Double tracking the South Shore Line is one of the largest infrastructure investment in the railroad’s history. With the additional track, high-speed crossovers and high-level boarding platforms now in place, we can deliver far superior commuter rail service to our riders with greater train frequency, better on-time performance and dramatically reduced times to and from Chicago,” Michael Noland, president of the South Shore Line. “We can’t thank our funding partners at the state and local levels enough, as well as our partnership with the FTA; we have all worked as a team every step of the way to ensure this vital project finished on time and under budget.”

The $650-million project was supported with a $172.96 million Full Funding Grant Agreement awarded in January 2021. The project originally entered the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants (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.

NICTD also secured a $27.5 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Build America Bureau for the project in 2022. Additional funding for the project included $24 million from the American Rescue Plan, $340 million from the state, $80 million from local jurisdictions and $30 million from NICTD.  

Service and economic impacts

The South Shore Line provides a key passenger rail connection between Northwest Indiana and Chicago. Starting May 14, the passenger rail line will implement a new schedule featuring a total of 53 trains to and from Chicago. 

“The final completion of Double Track allows for the addition of 14 weekday trains, revised times, reduced travel times and new, limited-stop express service,” said Michael Noland, President of South Shore Line. “In addition to new weekday trains, portions of weekend train times have also been modified to reflect improved travel times.”

In addition to improved service and faster travel times, the Double Track project and its companion project, the West Lake Corridor project, are projected to attract approximately $2.7 billion in private investment to Northwest Indiana, and result in more than 6,000 new jobs and $5 billion in economic impact by 2048. The state reports nearly $800 million in economic development is already underway on both project corridors.

“For more than a decade, the RDA has worked to make commuter rail expansion a reality,” said Sherri Ziller, president and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. “The completion of the Double Track project is a milestone marking the beginning of transformational changes in the Region. Better, faster and more reliable train service to and from Chicago is already bringing new residents and new growth to Northwest Indiana, as can already be seen from Hammond to Michigan City. Everyone who has helped get us to this point has my deepest thanks. We have done something special here that will impact Northwest Indiana for generations to come.”

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.