CHESTERTON — The South Shore Line Double Track NWI project, which will build a second set of tracks from Gary to Michigan City, achieved a significant milestone Monday with the awarding of its main contract.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Board awarded the contract for Double Track Project Number 1 to Walsh/Herzog Joint Venture of Crown Point at Monday’s meeting.

“We can’t wait to get Walsh out in the field and start to turn dirt,” South Shore president Mike Noland said.

Walsh/Herzog Joint Venture’s bid of $304.8 million was the lowest responsive and responsible bid. The other bid received was from FH Paschen Ragnar Benson Joint Venture of Chicago, in the amount of $322.36 million. Bids were opened Oct. 11.

“We had a lot of interest. There were 56 packets pulled for this project, but the project resulted in the receipt of two bids,” purchasing manager Tony Siegmund said.

Initial bids for the project were opened May 4 and rejected because they came in well over the internal cost estimate. The main contract went out for re-bid on Aug. 5.

The contract, said Noland, is the culmination of many years of effort.

“I think we need to take a deep breath here and reflect on the actions the board has taken. They truly are historic. To be here today, especially after opening up the bids in May when the pricing came in significantly higher than what we anticipated ... is incredibly exciting,” he said.

The project, which spans more than 26 miles from Gary to Michigan City, includes installation of a second mainline track; improvements at five stations – including a new station in Michigan City; expansion of parking lots for more than 1,300 more vehicles; and nine new platforms.

Noland said that they envision two full construction seasons in 2022 and 2023.

“Hopefully in the spring of 2024 that train goes through that grand opening ribbon and we start the significant new service that we’ve all been looking forward to here in Northwest Indiana for a long time.”

Noland said they are now working toward completion of utility relocation in the Double Track corridor.

“A significant amount of NIPSCO gas and electric lines have been relocated. We’ve also acquired most, if not all, of the property and are complete with demolitions,” he said.

Larson-Danielson of La Porte had previously been given notice to proceed with pulling down and storing the historic façade of Michigan City’s 11th Street station and complete demolition of that structure.

“The historic façade of the station is going to be removed. It will be taken down carefully by specialists in historic preservation and then when the new station and parking garage ... is built in Michigan City, the centerpiece of the new development will be the restoration of the façade,” Noland said.

The façade needs a significant amount of repair.

“It’s a very expensive process to do that. We have taken a major investment to preserve the historic façade and reincorporate it into the design,” Noland said.

However, he said the structure of the old station has very little value.

“There’s nothing left. It’s a shell, so we will be basically modernizing the interior,” he said.

NICTD has worked with the Michigan City Common Council, city administration and Historic Preservation Commission, as well as Indiana Landmarks, on the project.

“There was a long process. I think we have taken a tremendous amount of steps to make sure that historic nature ... is preserved,” Noland said.

Other Double Track related contracts awarded Monday include:

A contract for Project 4, which involves the new Ogden Dunes parking lot and improvements to Stage Coach Road, was awarded to Larson Danielson for $2.9 million.

A contract for Project 6, which involves Positive Train Control, was awarded to Xorail of Jacksonville, Florida, for $8.7 million.

A contract for busing services, which will be used during the project, was awarded to Royal Excursion of Mishawaka for a not-to-exceed the amount of $8.8 million.
© Copyright 2022 LPHeraldDispatch.com