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South Shore Line celebrates completion of Double Track project

Governor Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon on the South Shore Line's Double Track project at the railroad's Miller station on May 13.
Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media
Governor Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon on the South Shore Line's Double Track project at the railroad's Miller station on May 13.

A major investment in commuter rail is now complete. Governor Eric Holcomb joined other state and federal officials Monday to cut the ribbon on the South Shore Line's Double Track project.

Starting Tuesday, riders will see seven more weekday trains each direction in and out of Chicago, along with reduced travel times — a decrease of almost 40 minutes for some trains.

Holcomb said the project solves problems and creates new opportunities. "What is priceless to me is the cost savings in terms of time," Holcomb said. "When you get time back in your life – hard to put a value on that."

The project added nearly 18 miles of new track over a 26-mile corridor. But it also eliminated 20 grade crossings in Michigan City, and largely rebuilt a few of the stations.

"It’s a brand new station here in Gary – Miller," said Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District President Mike Noland. "In Ogden Dunes, like here, we have high-level boarding platforms. So not only is this great for our ADA customers. It’s also great for bikes.”

Beyond that, U.S. Representative Frank Mrvan (D-Highland) said it will open doors to employment, education and entrepreneurship. "Imagine the father who will be able to get to Valparaiso, so that he can get there in a quicker time to be able to coach his sons or daughters," Mrvan said. "Imagine the entrepreneurs that are going to be in the city of Gary that are opening up businesses because of incentives that the legislature have brought in."

And the commuter rail upgrades have already attracted $800 million in economic development, according to U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.). "These projects are expected to create thousands, thousands of new jobs and result in billions of dollars in private investment in the area," Young said.

Local leaders hope the project will spur redevelopment in communities like Gary and Michigan City.

While Tuesday's schedule overhaul doesn't add any more weekend trains, Noland expects the railroad to make adjustments over the coming months. "We know that we need to add more weekend service," Noland acknowledged. "We're actually going to look at all of our train schedules."

He said the project finished on time, and he expects it to end up around $50 million dollars under the $650 million budget. That's due, in part, to the railroad's decision to replace train service with buses during construction.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.