Doubling Down – $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is Rolling

Doubling Down – $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is Rolling

For more than 10 years, one of the biggest transportation goals for Northwest Indiana has been the expansion of the South Shore Line railroad into a double tracked system. Now, that goal is finally coming to fruition thanks to a unique combination of federal, state, and local dollars. Earlier this spring, construction began on what could be one of the region’s most economically impactful transportation efforts.


Project Scope

The double tracking project, which is officially called Double Track Northwest Indiana (NWI), involves quite a bit of varied elements throughout its construction. Overall, the work spans more than 26 miles from Gary to Michigan City, IN. A full project map is available here.

South ShoreFirst and foremost, the existing single rail track will be doubled. This will have a big impact on commuters. Officials project that peak period express trains running along the doubled mainline track will reduce travel times between Michigan City and Millennium Park in Chicago by 33 minutes. Trains will arrive more frequently for passengers too.

Numerous related construction projects will be taking shape along the stretch of new tracking, including improvements at five stations, expansion of parking lots for over 1,300 new parking spaces, and nine new platforms.

Some of the most significant work will be happening in Michigan City where major safety improvements are planned. Today, the rails are set in the roadway as a street-running track. This is going to be changed. The tracks will be separated from the roadway and 21 at-grade crossings will be closed. The old system will be replaced with two new, separated ballasted tracks.

All in all, the project is expected to more than double existing South Shore Line ridership and reduce travel times for all riders travelling east of Gary. Work is underway already and is expected to be completed in 2024.

“By improving commuter rail through the region, the project is a game changer for northwest Indiana and the entire state,” Governor Eric Holcomb said. “Double tracking the South Shore Line will connect Hoosiers, attract talent and business, and increase quality of life in our great Indiana communities.”


A Funding Coalition

The South Shore Line double tracking project is unique because it involves a wide partnership that is not typically seen on commuter rail infrastructure efforts. Federal, state, regional, city, and county entities are all involved.

Partners include the Federal Transit Administration, Michigan City and LaPorte County, South Bend and St. Joseph County, the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana’s congressional delegation, Governor Holcomb’s office, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA), Regional Cities of Northern Indiana, and the Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) – the latter two of which are the key funding partners.

The total project is expected to cost about $491 million. About $173 million originally came from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program, with another $24.5M provided recently as part of the American Rescue Plan. The state has committed up to $200 million and local entities have partnered to commit nearly $110 million.

“[This] highlights what all of our dedicated leaders can accomplish on behalf of our region when we work together. This significant investment in our transportation infrastructure will create new good-paying jobs and positive, collective economic impact throughout our entire region,” Congressman Frank Mrvan said.


$3 Billion Projected Economic Impact

The Double Track NWI project is closely linked to another major rail infrastructure project belonging to the South Shore line called the West Lake Corridor Project. The West Lake Corridor is a totally new commuter railway that will extend north to south from Hammond to Dyer, IN.

Combined, the two rail efforts are projected to attract approximately $2.3 billion in private investment to Northwest Indiana. This is expected to result in over 6,000 new jobs and a $3 billion in economic impact by 2048.


Greater Connectivity, Greater Opportunity

Northwest Indiana does lag behind our neighboring Chicagoland region to the west when it comes to commuter rail access. So any and all expansions to our systems will certainly bring about positive economic benefits and will lead to a more prosperous future for the region. Greater connectivity brings about greater opportunity, and now that the South Shore Line will soon become doubled we’re sure to be seeing big things emerge surround the new railways for years to come.




Double Track NWI Project Partners

Sources: NICTD