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Commuter rail projects rolling along on schedule

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South Shore Line

Northwest Indiana's two commuter rail projects are underway and on schedule. Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District President Mike Noland says the Double Track project is finally being built. Construction on the West Lake Corridor will start in the next month or two, with design work now about 75 percent complete.

"It is an amazing time. Something that we've been all working on for so long is actually here, and we're doing it. We're building it. And the excitement is palpable," Noland told the NICTD board Monday.

He said Double Track construction is visible all the way from Dune Park to Michigan City, and a number of trailers are serving as a base for construction workers. South Shore trains have been replaced with buses through that stretch, with Dune Park temporarily serving as a hub of the railroad's operations to Chicago.

"That's going to be an ongoing challenge, as we monitor the number of buses versus the number of passengers, especially as we're, hopefully, coming out of COVID. But so far, so good," Noland added.

Noland says, based on current construction schedules, the additional trains made possible by the Double Track project will start running in the spring of 2024, while the West Lake Corridor branch from Hammond to Dyer will open in spring 2025.

Meanwhile, the NICTD board approved the hiring of Piper Networks of San Diego, California to provide technical support services for the modification of the positive train control system for the Double Track project. Board members also approved a change order adding more than $1.32 million to the contract price of the West Lake Corridor project. That's after a $1 million change order was approved last fall, with the additional cost being covered by the city of Hammond.