City, county and business leaders have a prime opportunity to change economic development momentum in the region by participating with LaPorte County, Porter County and Lake County in double-tracking part of the South Shore Line, which would eliminate the need for the passenger line to wait for oncoming freight trains.
Local officials are also considering realigning the South Shore’s approach to South Bend International Airport. They say the work, when finished in 2020, will reduce the South Bend-to-Chicago trip from its current 2.5 hours to 90 minutes, and possibly down to 75 minutes on a special limited-stop trip each weekday morning and evening. The South Shore now comes into the city south of the airport, passes the airport, turns north along Bendix Drive and heads back west to the airport. Taking a more direct route to the airport and moving the train station to the airport’s west side is expected to shave 10 minutes off the trip.
The projected $290 million project would be funded 50 percent by the federal government, 25 percent by the state, and 25 percent jointly by Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties. Each county would contribute $18.25 million to double-track about 16 miles of railroad between Gary and Michigan City. The Indiana General Assembly approved $72.5 million in state funding this year and Gov. Eric Holcomb signed it into law. Local officials expect to receive a preliminary indication in October or November, when the Federal Transit Administration “scores” the project, whether it will receive the federal money in 2018.