South Shore still eyeing double-tracking project

SOUTH BEND (WNDU) The distance between South Bend and Chicago will remain the same, but the travel time could change dramatically.

$290 million worth of planned improvements to the South Shore rail line could greatly reduce the duration of a trip that now takes about two and a half hours.

“Connectivity is the new currency,” says John Parsons, the railroad's director of marketing and planning. “If we can find a combination between the double track and movement moving our service terminal from the east end of the South Bend Airport to the west end of the South Bend airport, that could get us down to 97 minutes from South Bend to Chicago.”

“Currently there's about 250 people that take the South Shore railroad in and out of Chicago from South Bend and St. Joseph County on a daily basis,” says St. Joseph County councilman Mark Catanzarite. “And the predictions we've seen through modeling is there could be up to 500 people that would do that on a regular basis should we get the commute times down to where we want them to come down to.”

State lawmakers recently pledged to contribute $6 million a year for 30 years to help the project along.

The railroad plans to apply for federal assistance this fall.