SOUTH BEND — The city’s common council unanimously passed a resolution Monday asking the South Shore Line to pick a new, faster route to the airport while still considering the interests of people who might lose their homes as a result.
About 40 of those people donned orange shirts and picketed in front of the County-City Building before the council meeting, chanting, “Save Ardmore, stop the South Shore!”
Ardmore is the unincorporated residential area just outside the city’s western edge. It stands in between the South Shore’s current tracks and the airport, an area that the railroad expects to dissect with the new route, displacing 35 to 40 households somewhere between Oak Road and Lexington Avenue.
City, county, state and railroad officials want to reduce the Chicago-to-South Bend passenger rail trip from two and a half hours to 90 minutes, effectively bringing South Bend into commuting range of the nation’s third-largest metro area. The bulk of the $290 million project would involve double-tracking 16 miles between Gary and Michigan City, so that the South Shore no longer has to stop and wait for freight trains.
Local officials have said a new, more direct route to the airport, rather than the existing path that doubles back west to the airport, would shave an estimated 10 minutes from the trip.
The resolution is only advisory since the council has no authority in the project. The city’s redevelopment commission – comprised of two common council members and three people appointed by the mayor – must approve giving $25 million for the rerouting project to the South Shore’s operator, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.