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Officials gather to celebrate South Shore Line double track project construction progress

U.S. Sen. Todd Young hammers in a golden spike as part of the groundbreaking ceremony while officials, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, look on.
Jakob Lazzaro
/
WVPE
U.S. Sen. Todd Young hammers in a golden spike as part of the groundbreaking ceremony while officials, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, look on.

Local, state and federal officials gathered in Michigan City Monday to celebrate construction progress on the South Shore Line’s double track project. Once complete, it’s expected to attract new residents and businesses to Northwest Indiana.

The South Shore Line commuter railroad opened in 1908 and runs from South Bend to downtown Chicago’s Millennium Station. Past Gary, though, much of the route is a single track — and line president Mike Noland said that presents some problems.

“We’re so close to Chicago — you can see it across the lake — but it took too long to get to Chicago,” Noland said. “We didn’t have enough trains, so we didn’t have enough frequency, and our on-time performance, because we had all that single-track railroad, wasn’t what it needs to be.”

But through the $650 million double track project, the railroad is building a 17-mile second track from Michigan City to Gary, implementing a host of other line improvements and constructing a new station in downtown Michigan City that will be accompanied by $80 million housing, retail and office development.

Once complete, Noland said Michigan City will be just an hour’s ride from the Loop, with South Bend dropping to an hour and 45 minutes.

Officials, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, said that will help unlock the region’s potential — attracting new businesses and new residents.

“It’s going to be a ginormous magnet on multiple fronts for growth and vibrancy and progress,” Holcomb said. “We need more talent, we need more housing, we need more growth — and the type of economic growth that comes with the businesses of the future.”

“This is Hoosier history being made right before our very eyes,” Holcomb added.

Noland agrees. He said the double track project means more frequent and reliable service, better connecting Northwest Indiana to the economic hub of Chicago.

“We unlock the opportunity for people to come over from Illinois — or to relocate to The Region — and make this four-county region a value proposition for them,” Noland said. “We have lower taxes, we’ve got Lake Michigan, we have a balance sheet that would be the envy of most states around the country.”

Although the groundbreaking ceremony was held Monday, construction got started back in March. Noland said the section from Michigan City to Dune Park will be operational by the end of this year.

The downtown Michigan City parking structure and station are set to open in 2024, and the accompanying private “air rights” development — a mix of luxury apartments, office and retail space — will open one year later.

The South Shore Line is also currently building the West Lake Corridor, an 8.5-mile extension in Northwest Indiana from Hammond to Munster and Dyer, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

Both projects received federal funding last year with double track getting $173 million and the West Lake Corridor getting just under $355 million.

According to Gov. Holcomb’s office, the improvements are expected to attract $2.7 billion in private investment to Northwest Indiana, resulting in over 6,000 new jobs and a $5 billion economic impact by 2048.

In addition to Gov. Holcomb, U.S. Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Frank Mrvan and former Rep. Pete Visclosky attended the Monday groundbreaking ceremony.

“This has been in the making for decades,” Holcomb said. “But this is not talk any longer — we are building. This is not rhetoric, it’s results. And it’s the good kind of results that happen when people do come together.”

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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