FAQs

The South Shore Line (SSL) proposes to construct a 25-mile second track for the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City. The SSL currently operates mostly on a single track that is shared with freight rail. Trains on the single track experience delays in multiple areas where they must stop at a station or on a siding and wait for other trains to pass. These delays also occur when crews perform routine track maintenance or if a train develops a mechanical issue en route. The continuous second track would allow trains and passengers to continue to their destination without stops and delays for passing trains, maintenance work or other track issues.

SSL rush hour trains are currently crowded. The SSL needs to be able to run more trains to accommodate all of its passengers. This problem will become even worse as ridership grows.

Travel time between Michigan City and Chicago on the SSL is longer than by car, making it a less desirable choice for travel. Double tracking will allow for quicker travel times.

Currently, the SSL from Gary to South Bend is mostly single track, except for one 6.5-mile section of double track and several passing sidings.The SSL and South Shore Freight Service share use of the same track. Without a continuous double track, SSL trains must wait for other passenger trains to pass before proceeding. Similarly, SSL trains heading in opposite directions must rely on the scheduled meet times and wait to proceed. If a delay occurs on the line, all of the trains behind it are affected.

There are several un-signalized, un-protected roadway crossings in Michigan City. The trains currently use embedded, street-running track in this area. Train speed in this section is limited to 15-25 mph, and safety is an issue for commuters, the freight service, pedestrians, cyclists, and automobiles.

Benefits of the project include:

  • Quicker travel times
  • Increased service frequency
  • Improved reliability
  • Less need for temporary busing to get around planned maintenance
  • Enhanced safety
  • Opportunity for private investment and economic development  resulting from faster and more frequent train service.

At Miller Station in Gary, the South Shore Line (SSL) would realign the existing track and construct a second track, a new station building, two new high-level platforms, and two storage tracks. The storage tracks will enable our exclusive Gary to Chicago service to depart from Miller. A key element of the double tracking project, is INDOT's relocation of US 12 to merge with US 20 east of Lake St. The City of Gary is planning an improved station building, transit-oriented development (TOD) around the station, and expanded parking, some of which will serve the SSL station.

At the Portage/Ogden Dunes Station, the SSL would construct two new high-level platforms and related track improvements.

At the Dune Park Station, the SSL would construct a second boarding platform and related track improvements.

The Beverly Shores Station would be improved with a second platform.

At 11th Street  in Michigan City, the SSL would construct two new high-level 8-car platforms in addition to the track improvements. The SSL is collaborating extensively with Michigan City regarding a proposed station building and surrounding improvement. Michigan City is planning for TOD and expanded parking, some of which will serve the SSL station. 

It is not anticipated that there will be any station closures as part of this project; however, it is possible that future scheduling may involve express trains that may bypass some stations with low ridership at particular times during the day.

Preliminary plans show the second track generally running parallel to the existing track. The exact alignment will be refined during final design. Alternatives have been developed during the environmental review process and a preferred alternative has been selected and refined for preliminary design.

The FTA’s process for Capital Investment Grant Projects is a structured process with three phases: 

  1. Project Development. The FTA approved NICTD's request to enter into the project development process in 2016. The project development process included an environmental review that included completing environmental studies, developing and reviewing alternatives, and identifying a locally preferred alternative. The locally preferred alternative was documented in the Environmental Assessment, which was made available for public review and comment in September 2017. After reviewing public comments and identifying measures to mitigation impacts, it is anticipated that the FTA will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact in May 2018.  The SSL will request approval from the FTA to enter into the Engineering phase. At the end of the project development phase, NICTD will request approval from the FTA to enter into the Engineering phase through Readiness Technical Plans.

  2. Engineering. Project design will be completed with enough detail to allow the FTA to evaluate, rate, and approve the designs. If the FTA approves the project as designed and provides a favorable ratings decision, it will commit the funding and the SSL will request a Full Funding Grant Agreement. The timeline is dependent on federal and state funding approvals. 

  3. Construction. Following a signed Full Funding Grant Agreement, the SSL will advertise the project for bid construction. The FTA will continue to provide oversight throughout the construction process. 

 

As a recipient of federal funding (e.g., federal fuel tax funds), the Project must comply with several federal laws and regulations before it can be implemented, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities which receive federal financial assistance. NICTD, as operator of the SSL, is required to have an FTA-approved Title VI Program in place to receive federal funding.

Capital funds to NICTD to expand commuter rail service require that NICTD provide service equitably along the corridor to “ensure that the level and quality of public transportation service is provided in a nondiscriminatory manner” (FTA Circular 4702.1B).

The Environmental Assessment includes an evaluation of any potential disproportionate impacts to minority or low-income persons in the corridor, and show that the project would not exclude those protected by Title VI from the benefits of the new rail service. In addition, the project must include a Title VI analysis for the siting of the operations and maintenance facilities to ensure that the site-specific impacts are not disparately borne by those protected under Title VI.

Timeline

The project is expected to be completed and in operation by the end of 2021.

Getting Involved

The South Shore Line (SSL) hosted three public workshops in October 2016 and two public hearings in October 2017 for the purpose of informing the public and collecting comments. Anyone can visit the Contact Us page on this website at any time to comment, submit questions, or join the mailing list.

Comments received before or during the formal comment periods will inform decision-making related to the milestones.

Comments submitted before and after formal comment periods are reviewed by the South Shore Line (SSL) and the project team and will help provide an understanding of public and stakeholder sentiment regarding the project.

The South Shore Line (SSL) relies heavily on email and the project website to communicate with those who have shown interest in the project. The best way to stay informed about upcoming public meetings and project updates is to provide us your email address using the comment form. You may also provide a mailing address for meeting notifications. Up-to-date information will be posted on this website. 

The South Shore Line (SSL) staff is available to meet with your organization or community group to discuss this project. Send us an email at: DoubleTrackNWI@nictd.com

Although the formal comment periods have closed, the public and agencies are encouraged to comment on the Project. Submit a comment by:

Email: DoubleTrackNWI@nictd.com

Complete a comment form

Mail in your comments:

South Shore Line

Attn: Double Track NWI

33 East U.S. Highway 12

Chesterton, IN 46304

Leave a message at the project hotline:  (219) 850-4457

Comments submitted after the formal comment periods are reviewed by the SSL and the Project team and help provide an understanding of public and stakeholder ideas and concerns. These comments will continue to be considered at the projects progress through final design and construction.

 

Funding

Current estimates for the Project are approximately $312 million. Capital costs will be updated as design progresses through design design and engineering.

In September 2017, the South Shore Line (SSL) submitted the Double Track NWI Project to the FTA for a project rating and funding recommendation through the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program. The SSL made a request to defer the FTA rating decision in February 2018 to complete the Environmental Assessment, request a Finding of No Significant Impact, and update the financing plans needed to move the project forward. As a result, the Double Track NWI Project was listed as unrated in the Annual Report on Funding Recommendations (Annual Report). The SSL is working with FTA to update the financial information for a ratings decision and the project will remain eligible for funding consideration in the Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget once the rating decision is complete.

It is anticipated that the FTA’s New Starts program will provide up to 50 percent of the Project’s capital cost. The non-New Starts costs will be covered by a combination of funding sources, including funding from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the State of Indiana, and local communities.

For more information on the FTA’s New Starts program and process, visit: https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grant-programs/capital-investments/about-program.    

As part of the FTA Grant Process, the South Shire Line is preparing a financial plan that to evaluate different funding strategies and identify if changes to fare structures are needed.

Property Acquisition

Following scoping, the project study identified and evaluated alternative alignment concepts. As part of this process, the need to acquire additional property has been determined. Wherever possible, the project has been designed to stay within the existing railroad or roadway right-of-way; however, some property acquisitions are anticipated especially in Michigan City and Miller section of Gary. Any property acquisition will follow the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended, which is a law passed by Congress to promote uniformity and fairness when a local transit agency must acquire property.

The timeline is dependent on federal and state funding approvals. Property acquisitions would not take place until the final design process, which is currently anticipated to begin in late 2018.

Each property to be acquired would undergo an appraisal and a review appraisal. Based on the results, an offer of purchase would be provided reflecting the fair market value of the property.

For more information on Acquisition and Relocation, visit: General Acquisition and Relocation Information

In order to construct, operate, and maintain the proposed Project, it will be necessary for the South Shore Line (SSL) NICTD to purchase private property.

The Project design has not yet been finalized; therefore, property needs could change as the design develops, particularly as the SSL seeks to minimize property impacts. Federal and state regulations and laws govern the acquisition of private property for public use and define when acquisition would be required.

If a property purchase is required, the acquisition process would generally be as follows:

                The SSL would contact the real property owner or owner’s representative to explain the acquisition process, including the right to accompany the appraiser during inspection of the property, and would provide the owner with a written notice of NICTD’s intent to acquire the property.

                The SSL would provide the owner with a written offer of the approved estimate of just compensation for the real property to be acquired and a summary statement of the basis for the offer.

                The SSL would give the property owner an opportunity to consider the offer for at least 30 days.

                The SSL would conduct negotiations without any attempt to coerce the property owner into reaching an agreement.

                The SSL would provide the property owner or tenant with at least 90 days’ written notice to vacate the property before NICTD takes possession.

If negotiations with property owners are not successful, the SSL may acquire the property through eminent domain. If eminent domain is necessary, the SSL would follow the procedures set forth under state laws including Indiana Eminent Domain (Indiana Code § 32-24) and Relocation Assistance (Indiana Code § 8-23-17).

 

Potential Property Acquisitions as of March 9, 2018 are shown at: http://www.doubletrack-nwi.com/map

*subject to change as designs are further developed and finalized

For real estate questions about specific properties, please leave a message at:  (219) 841-9974.


Property values are affected by many factors including a variety of market conditions. Research has shown that major transit investments such as commuter rail generally yield positive effects on property values. There is potential for an increase in property values in the areas surrounding proposed commuter rail stations, as commuter rail access can increase the convenience and desirability of nearby residential, commercial, and office properties. Commuter rail transit can also contribute to existing market forces that can increase the potential for TOD or redevelopment. Development and redevelopment are managed by the local jurisdictions in the Project Area and are driven predominantly by regional and local economic conditions and land uses as defined in locally adopted comprehensive plans and zoning laws. Transit projects, including commuter rail lines, can advance the timing and increase the intensity of development, especially in areas near proposed stations, as allowed by local comprehensive plans. The direct impacts of a rail project on property values are difficult to assess conclusively because there are so many other factors that also affect property values. Continuing population growth and a strengthening of the local economy within the Project Area would also contribute to redevelopment and increased property values.

Studies on transit investments and property values include:

"Impacts of Rail Transit on Property Values"

Roderick B. Diaz Booze | Allen & Hamilton Inc. Mclean, VA

"Effects of Light and Commuter Rail Transit on Land Prices: Experiences in San Diego County"

Roberto Cervero

"The Effect of Rail Transit on Property Values: A Summary of Studies"

Parsons Brinckerhoff

Environment

Environmental considerations are an important part of the development and evaluation of the alternatives. Environmental data were collected and analyzed with regard to wetlands, water quality, endangered species, parklands, historic resources, and hazardous material sites. Field surveys were conducted to determine the locations of these resources, and the information will be used to inform the design process. Efforts were and will continue to be made during design to minimize environmental impacts.

The South Shore Line (SSL) has been and will continue to coordinate with appropriate federal, state and local agencies to review and mitigate any potential impacts to existing resources such as the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, wetlands, and any historic sites and districts.