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Construction and weather pose challenges for South Shore Line operations

South Shore Line

It's been a challenging winter for the South Shore Line and its riders. Trains have been replaced by buses between Dune Park and Gary Metro Center, as construction crews finish the Double Track project.

But for two days in December, more busing had to take place between Michigan City and South Bend, as South Shore Freight cleaned up a derailment. "Our freight partner over in Michigan City was rolling some cars out of GAF, and somebody threw a turnout under the train while it was moving," Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District President (NICTD) Mike Noland told the NICTD board Monday.

While it didn't cause major damage, it still impacted the South Shore's performance metrics, since the track had to be taken out of service.

Then, last month, the railroad dealt with several days of subzero temperatures, followed by three feet of snow in Michigan City, where its trains and crews are based. "This railroad went through one hell of a weather stretch, and our employees performed above and beyond," Noland said.

While the South Shore Line mostly maintained service, it did have to expand busing again in January, when what Noland called a "procedural problem" caused it to lose overhead wire in Gary. "So we had a self-inflicted wound there that was in the mix, as well," Noland added.

Busing will once again be expanded tonight (Friday), as crews perform overhead wire work for the Double Track project. Eastbound trains leaving Chicago after 9:00 p.m. will be replaced by buses all the way from Gary Metro Center to Carroll Avenue.

Noland said the railroad's 2023 on-time performance rate of 73 percent is "nothing to brag about." But he's hopeful that will improve significantly once Double Track work wraps up in May.