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South Shore Line hires engineering firm to design new route to South Bend Airport

screenshot of NICTD board presentation captured via Zoom

The South Shore Line's plans for a more direct route to South Bend International Airport have taken another step forward.

Currently, trains head slightly past the airport and then circle back to approach the terminal from the east. On Monday, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) board hired engineering firm DLZ for a cost of almost $6 million, to draw up plans for a route straight to the airport's west side.

NICTD President Mike Noland said the realignment will shorten travel times for South Shore riders and bring new passengers to the airport. “I can see people in Chicago who are looking at booking airfare and then now realizing that they can just get to Millennium Station and ride a train to the airport,” Noland told board members.

It would also open opportunities for an hourly airport shuttle to Michigan City and a future branch to downtown South Bend.

Noland said the realignment has the full support of airport leaders, most notably St. Joseph County Airport Authority board member Andy Kostielney, who also happens to work for DLZ — and until recently, was a member of the NICTD board. DLZ was one of two firms to submit proposals.

“They have people that understand our railroad, understand how we do things. So they really put together a team that we should hit the ground running and position ourselves to take this project to funding,” Noland added.

Environmental studies are scheduled to be complete in September of 2023, at which point the railroad could start applying for grants. Full engineering is expected to finish up in March of 2024.