AECOM releases results of South Shore Line route alternatives

Published: Apr. 20, 2018 at 12:02 AM EDT
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The results of a study are in on a project to decrease the South Shore Line's travel time to and from Chicago. Several residents in the Ardmore Neighborhood believe this will help them keep their homes.

Original plans in 2017 called for re-tracking the route to approach South Bend International from the west instead of looping from the south around to the east to cut back on travel time.

"We wanted to take a more comprehensive, holistic look at all of the different options on where the station could be located," said the Director of Public Works for South Bend Eric Horvath. "None of which would go through the Ardmore area, but all of which are feasible in terms of a construction standpoint."

AECOM was the consulting firm hired to study four alternative options. They studied one near the new Chocolate Cafe location that will be built west of the airport, a station near Honeywell, an option at the Amtrak station and a brand new site downtown across from Claeys Candy, Inc.

"We did a thorough examination of each of the sites from every aspect we were asked to look at and provided enough data for the city to make a decision," said Earl Wacker, the vice president of railroads for AECOM.

From the study we learned the cheapest option is the Honeywell stop at 23.9 million dollars while the downtown option is significantly more at 102.3 million.

"This validates that downtown really appears to be the highest reward, but also the highest cost option," said Mayor Pete Buttigieg. "It's clear there's a lot of potential around it, but we're also looking north at over a hundred million dollar expenditure."

The reason the Honeywell option is so cheap is because the South Shore already travels that direction every day.

"It's on the existing alignment so the location that was selected for Honeywell is passed every day for the South Shore train as it's going into the airport today so the cost is just a matter of relocating or building a new station and maybe some upgrades," said Wacker.

Although the results of the study were supposed to come out in February, they got delayed because the city was ironing out the kinks with AECOM to make sure everything was on the table.

"Taking this more holistic approach and taking a step back, although it delayed the project will be well worth it long term for the city once we can make a decision and move forward," said Horvath.

The alternative routes are being considered a win by many residents in Ardmore.

"I'm feeling reassured that it's going to take a path we're all going to like," said Richard Collins who lives in the neighborhood. "I don't want this to be a win for Ardmore, it's gotta be a win for South Bend, too."

Collins said he doesn't believe they will choose the Ardmore option even though it's still on the table in addition to the four.

"When we started this I started believing that I could win," said Collins. "You don't start something like this thinking you can't win or maybe we can get something else done, no. We were going to win this and if we didn't we would have had other plans.

All five options have a travel time to Millennium Station between 82 and 84 minutes.

There is no timeline yet for when a decision will be made, but there will be several public hearings before they choose.

Everyone is encouraged to look at the results of the study. If you're interested in reading it,