‘Full construction mode’: Construction work on South Shore’s Double Track project advances | Northwest Indiana Business Headlines

PORTER — The South Shore Line Double Track project is in full swing, while major earthwork…

PORTER — The South Shore Line Double Track project is in full swing, while major earthwork on the West Lake Corridor is expected to begin in June, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Board of Trustees heard at its Monday meeting.

“Both projects will be in full construction mode by the time we have our next meeting in July,” South Shore President Michael Noland said during the meeting at the Dune Park Station in Porter. “Drive to Michigan City from here and you will see nothing but hundreds of construction workers.”

Double Track railroad work is currently focused on that stretch, with buses carrying passengers between the stations. Coach buses operated by Royal Excursion have given nearly 23,000 total rides since busing began the last day of February. 

“By the end of this year, we’ll have completed the Michigan City to Dune Park section,” Noland said. Work will move to the Dune Park to Gary stretch from there, with busing phasing westward.

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Crews are also working in Gary’s Miller neighborhood, where a sewer project has rerouted some traffic and station site work is underway. The station and parking lots there are being built by Hasse Construction.

The main construction contract for the $649 million Double Track project is for $304.8 million for a Walsh/Herzog partnership to do the project’s main rail work. The Larson-Danielson Construction Co. has contracts to do parking lot work at Portage/Ogden Dunes Station and to build the Michigan City 11th Street Station. Rieth-Riley has recently completed its contract for a new east parking lot at Dune Park. 

The project is expected to be completed in 2024. Once completed, 76 train cars will be operated on the South Shore Line, 40 of them double-deckers, including 26 that are being leased from Metra and are currently being rehabilitated. The South Shore is also rehabilitating 32 cars of its own in anticipation of expanded service along the West Lake Corridor.

Main construction work on the three-year, $945 million West Lake Corridor will begin in north Hammond, along the most complex portion of the route. In north Hammond, the railroad will be elevated across the Grand Calumet River and the freight railroads that line it, before descending to ground level in the downtown.

Work also includes improvements by the communities the rail line will pass through, with Hammond planning to build a downtown station, and Munster paying for upgrades to its future stations. Board actions Monday included approval of about $6.6 million in betterments to the West Lake Corridor’s Munster stations and work on associated infrastructure to be paid for by the town.

Noland said the station work includes upgrades to the basic design and building materials originally presented by NICTD.

The Munster Town Council has already approved about $5.1 million for the Main Street Station area and about $900,000 for the Ridge Road Station. It has also approved paying just under $400,000 for relocation of a water main south of the Pennsy Greenway Trail.

Another contract addition approved by the NICTD board, totaling nearly $180,000, would pay design costs for removing a detention pond at the Ridge Road station area. The Munster council still needs to approve its funding for that.

The NICTD board’s action, which must also be approved by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the Indiana Finance Authority, increased the district’s design-build contract with the F.H. Paschen/Ragnar Benson Joint Venture to about $564.7 million.