LaPORTE COUNTY, Ind (WNDU) --- The federal government has approved the final engineering phase of the South Shore Double Track Northwest Indiana project, paving the way for faster service from South Bend to Chicago.
"We have such tremendous bipartisan, regional, and state, and actually now federal support. We can't wait to get this project going," expressed Michael Noland, president of the South Shore Line.
The 26-mile Double Track project spans Michigan City to Gary. It includes installing a second mainline track, improvements at five stations, 1,300 new parking spaces and nine new platforms.
In Michigan City, the rail will be separated from the road. Additionally, 21 at-grade crossings will be closed. These changes will shorten the trip from South Bend to Chicago to roughly 1 hour 45 minutes.
Even though St. Joseph County won't have the double track improvements, officials expect to see an economic improvement because of the quicker commute.
"This way, folks could come and live in Indiana and work in Chicago and make that trip pretty quickly," St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney said, "It's just a great way we can expand our entire economic base here in St. Joe County."
With the double track improvements, ridership is expected to triple, according to Noland.
Sometime in 2020, South Shore expects a decision to be made regarding the future of the South Bend station, which is currently on the east end of the South Bend International Airport. Relocating it to the western part of the airport or to downtown would cut Chicago trips to 90 minutes.
Double track construction is set to begin around the summer of 2021.