© 2024 Lakeshore Public Media
8625 Indiana Place
Merrillville, IN 46410
Public Broadcasting for Northwest Indiana & Chicagoland since 1987
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First phase of Double Track nearing completion, as efforts to expand capacity on Metra move forward

South Shore Line

The first phase of the South Shore Line's Double Track project could open later this summer. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) President Mike Noland says construction is wrapping up on the improvements between Michigan City and Dune Park.

"The track's all in. The crossovers are all in. The overhead catenary's in. The signal system's in," Noland told the NICTD board Monday.

He said train service between Michigan City and Dune Park will likely resume in mid-August, while busing will continue from there to Gary Metro Center. "And we do appreciate our riders' patience as we get through this construction cycle," Noland added. "It's not easy. We knew it was going to be an impact on our riders and can't wait to get out of it."

Installing a second track also means building new bridges over streets and other railroads. Crews also have to finish improvements at the Miller and Odgen Dunes stations. When the full Double Track project opens in May 2024, there will be 14 additional trains to Chicago.

Construction on the West Lake Corridor branch from Hammond to Dyer is about 25 percent complete. Noland said the elevated portion in Hammond is starting to take shape, along with the rest of the future line.

"There's rail being laid. There's platforms installed at 173rd Street. So there's a tremendous amount of activity going on," Noland said.

While there have some delays, Noland still hopes construction will wrap up in November 2024, with service to start in May of 2025.

Once West Lake and Double Track are done, the 26 additional trains will have to have somewhere to go. NICTD is partnering with Metra to fix a potential bottleneck between 11th Street and Millennium Station by converting a storage track into a fourth mainline track. But Noland said the lone construction bid the railroads received ended up being significantly higher than expected.

"After careful evaluation, we made the tough decision to say we're going to accept a much higher bid and go forward because the likelihood that we repackage this and get a lower price tag was not strong, and it would probably cost us at least a year," Noland explained.

He said many firms that would typically bid are already booked up with other projects.

Metra's board last week approved an almost $96 million contract with F.H. Paschen, which is also involved in the West Lake project. The Metra board also approved almost $12 million in contracts for track and signal work, along with related equipment.

As it currently stands, NICTD will be responsible for the majority of the funding, with Metra only contributing $4 million. NICTD's board is expected to consider issuing the necessary bonds for the project later this year, with work scheduled to be complete in late 2025.