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On Track: Governor Signs Double Tracking Bill

Friday, June 16, 2017

In mid-May, Indiana Governor Holcomb held a ceremonial signing ceremony in Michigan City, IN for HEA 1144, a crucial rail transit development bill for the Northwest Indiana region.

Although it includes a number of improvements and additions, including the West Lake Corridor from Hammond to Dyer, the aspect that officials refer to as a game-changer is the addition of a second full rail track along the existing South Shore Line from Gary to Michigan City. Allowing greater movement and fewer bottlenecks, this double-tracking will greatly improve service for commuters and drastically decrease their travel times, even for those coming from places further east such as South Bend.

Gov. Holcomb rode the train from one station in Michigan City to another where the signing ultimately took place, accompanied by a number of other local, regional and state legislators and partners. In remarks before signing the bill, Holcomb said that it will “put the mechanisms in place for economic development along the South Shore Line, paving the way—or should I say, getting us on track—as we double-track.” He also highlighted how important these improvements will be to connect the region to Chicago, the nation’s third largest economy, in “ways we never have before.”

The governor also said he considers the millions that the state plans to spend, over a span of some 30 years, to improve and expand commuter rail service in Northwest Indiana to be a vital investment in the future of the state as well as a top accomplishment of the 2017 General Assembly.

According to the bill itself, HEA 1144 “establishes a rail transit corridor in Northwest Indiana. Specifies that the main line double tracking project and the West Lake corridor improvement project are considered rail projects. Permits the Northwest Indiana regional development authority (NWIRDA) to establish transit development districts containing a train station or regular train stop within the corridor, including new stations or stops along the West Lake corridor.”

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority CEO Bill Hanna called the signing “historic,” saying these projects were the biggest projects like this in over 100 years. Clarence Hulse, Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City’s executive director, reflected that for both his city and for the entire region, these projects will have a significant positive impact on efforts to attract new talent and new investment.

More recently in June, the RDA Board of Directors approved an annual commitment of up to $3 million over the next 30 years to contribute toward these projects, representing the portions of Lake and Porter counties. With legislative support and committed funding support, the project is expected to begin construction in 2019 and be operational in 2020.

Bill Hanna, President and CEO

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority

219.644.3500

bhanna@rda.in.gov

www.in.gov/rda

 

Clarence Hulse, Executive Director

Economic Development Corporation Michigan City

219.873.1211

chulse@edcmc.com

www.edcmc.com