A low-cost federal loan will help finance a passenger rail improvement project already underway in northern Indiana. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation announced the $27.5-million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Loan on Dec. 22.
The funding will go toward the double track project of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)’s South Shore Line. The plan calls for construction of about 18 miles of track parallel to the existing track in a 26-mile corridor between Gary and Michigan City.
The South Shore Line connects northwest Indiana suburbs and South Bend International Airport to Millennium Station in Chicago. Currently, train frequency is limited by single track sections and train speeds are limited to 15 mph to 25 mph in areas with street-running track and unprotected crossings. The double-track project will cut travel time by a third, while increasing safety and reliability, Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said in a statement.
“This project will deliver improved trip options, taking vehicles off the road and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” Trottenberg said.
Work on the project began in June. NICTD divided the project under several contracts, with New York-based WSP USA Inc. serving as the construction manager. NICTD expects to complete construction in 2024 and begin ramped-up rail service later that year.
In addition to the second track, about 2 miles of track would be separated from vehicular traffic along a new right-of-way as part of the project, according to NICTD. Four new bridges and an overhead catenary power system would be built. Twenty-two at-grade crossings and 20 culverts would be rebuilt. The plan also calls for some station improvements, including construction of new platforms and expanded parking at five stations and a new building at Miller Station in Gary.
This is not the first federal funding for the project. In 2021, U.S. DOT’s Federal Transit Administration signed a $173-million grant agreement with NICTD for the work. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office says the state is using another $24 million from the American Rescue Program for the work. DOT also executed a $203.3-million loan earlier this year for another South Shore Line project to build an 8-mile extension between Dyer and Hammond.