CHESTERTON — The South Shore Line’s Double Track NWI project is nearing its end point.

Double Track NWI – which will add a second set of tracks and station improvements along a 26.6-mile stretch from Michigan City to Gary – opened its first segment for rail service on Oct. 25 through Michigan City.

“We’re running trains now from South Bend all the way to Dune Park,” South Shore President Mike Noland said during Monday’s Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Board meeting. “We’ve been running operations now for a little over a month successfully.”


The newly opened segment has shortened the busing route, taking it from 26 miles to a 13 miles from Dune Park to Gary. “That also helps us with delivery of service for customers and it’s taking a little bit of pressure off of our staff,” Noland said.

Work is about 95 percent complete on the construction side of the project. “That means that the section between here and Gary is nearly done and if you drive up and down the line, you’ll see the station is nearly finished in Miller,” Noland said.

“The high-level platform in Ogden Dunes is up and they’re putting the finishing touches on it. Double track is in just about everywhere we need to put it in between here and Gary,” he said at the meeting, conducted at the NICTD offices at Dune Park.

The last work that will occur, said Noland, is completing the installation of the signal system. “To do that we need to finish up the overhead catenary system. That’s what’s really going to be the bulk of activity over the next six to eight weeks to finish up the project,” he said.

Once that work is completed, the line will be tested and commissioned. “We’ll put our engineers and dispatchers and conductors and other staff through the new routes,” Noland said.

“They’ll be able to see what the routes are supposed to look like.”

Double Track NWI is slated to open for revenue service in May 2024.

“It’s an exciting time to be where we are ... There’s only 5 percent left, but it’s an important 5 percent and we need to keep our noses to the grindstone, which I know we will, and make sure that we carry this thing across the finish line,” Noland said.

The South Shore’s revenue through October was $7.9 million compared to $7.8 million for the same period in 2022. Revenue for that period in 2019, the last non-COVID year, was $18.75.

“I continue to keep 2019 in there because that’s still the goal to get back to,” said Kelly Wenger, South Shore chief accountant. “We see those upticks and then the plateaus.”


The South Shore’s “By One Get One” monthly passes will end this year. “Those were reflected in the revenues in ‘22 and ‘23. Going into ‘24 that promotion won’t be there anymore,” Wenger said.

In terms of 2023 ridership, the South Shore had 1.27 million total passengers through October. Ridership for that period in 2022 was 1.17 million; and in 2019 was 2.75 million.

“Weekend ridership really surged earlier in this year. I think folks are just kind of worn out on the busing. It’s a lot for discretionary riders who aren’t as familiar with our line to feel that comfort level getting on and off buses and trains,” Wenger said.

Through October, the South Shore’s total on-time performance was at 76.1 percent, compared to 73.6 percent for the same period in 2022. Through October, a total of 10,868 trains ran, with 8,268 of them on time.

The South Shore’s Bikes on Trains season ended on Oct. 31. In 2023 the program saw 2,487 bike riders compared to 2,990 in 2022 and 2,721 in 2021.

“We’re a little bit below where we were in 2021. I’d expect an uptick obviously when the busing is over,” said Nicole Barker, director of capital investment and implementation.

The design build on the other major South Shore project, the West Lake Corridor, is about 55 percent complete. West Lake will add an 8-mile line from Hammond to Dyer.

“There’s a lot of activity on the project,” Noland said. “You’ll see a lot of cranes up in the air. We’ve dropped in and completed the bridge over CSX in North Hammond. We are working to complete a section over the river by the NIPSCO gasification plant.”

They achieved a major milestone at the end of October near 45th Street in Munster, which involved CSX performing work. Various parts of the project have included signals, a sewer main and NIPSCO dropping powerlines underneath the tracks.

“We had a temporary outage at the hospital there. All this had to be coordinated in order to allow for the builder to come in and put the vents in because we’re going to be up in the air over 45th Street,” Noland said.

“That’s all finished up – there were a lot of plates spinning around – that’s all now out of the way so the contractor now has clear sailing to build the project all the way through,” he added.

Four miles of track for the project, said Noland, have been put in. “If you drive through Hammond you’ll see where the railroad’s going to be up in the air starting at Douglas Street all the way to where the gateway station is going to be,” he said.

A big hurdle is finishing a tunnel in the Munster/Dyer area where an underpass will be built under CSX. “We see a pathway to finishing up West Lake on time, which is May of 2025,” Noland said.

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