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South Shore Line's Double Track project almost 95% complete as West Lake clears major hurdles

A new West Lake Corridor bridge had been partially installed over the Little Calumet River between Hammond and Munster, as seen on Nov. 11.
Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media
A new West Lake Corridor bridge had been partially installed over the Little Calumet River between Hammond and Munster, as seen on Nov. 11.

Construction on the South Shore Line's Double Track project is almost 95-percent complete. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) President Mike Noland says the section between Michigan City and Dune Park has been open for about a month, while the remaining part between Dune Park and Gary is nearly done.

"The station is nearly finished in Miller," Noland told the NICTD board Monday. "The high-level platform at Odgen Dunes is up and putting the finishing touches on it. Double track is just about in everywhere we need to put it in."

Noland said the remaining work includes finishing the overhead catenary system that will power the electric trains. That, in turn, will allow crews to finish installing and turning on the signal system. Then, dispatchers, engineers and conductors will begin testing the line, under both the current and proposed schedules, before it officially opens next May.

"So it's an exciting time to be where we are on this project. There's still that — maybe there's only five percent left but it's an important five percent, and we need to keep our noses to the grindstone," Noland added.

Meanwhile, the West Lake Corridor branch from Hammond to Dyer is about 55-percent complete.

Noland said the project cleared a major hurdle at the end of October. NICTD had to coordinate with CSX, NIPSCO, the town of Munster and others, to move an existing railroad signal, power lines and a sewer main, to make way for a West Lake overpass near 45th Street.

"There were a lot of plates spinning around. That's all now out of the way, and so the contractor now has clear sailing to build the project all the way through to the Munster/Dyer border," Noland said.

It's one of a number of bridges being built for the project. Others will take the West Lake Corridor over CSX, Norfolk Southern and Hohman Avenue.

Noland said the next big hurdle is to build an underpass to extend Main Street west to the new station at the border between Dyer and Munster. "That's still taking some coordination work to get that done, but we see a pathway to finishing up West Lake on time, which is May of 2025," Noland told board members.

At the same time, work is underway to make sure all of those new trains will have a place to go. NICTD is teaming up with Metra to add a fourth mainline track between 11th Street and Millennium Station in Chicago.

Noland said contractor F.H. Paschen is well into the process of getting its plans approved by the city, and he expects construction to start in the spring. That'll include adding another platform at Van Buren and installing piers for the overhead wire. Metra will do the track work and install the overhead wire itself.