The major expansion of the South Shore commuter rail line in northwest Indiana has cleared a key hurdle. The Federal Transit Administration has moved the West Lake Corridor Project into the project development phase, which allows for environmental review and engineering work to begin.
The nearly $600 million project would extend the South Shore line south from Hammond to Dyer, Indiana. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District says the goal of the project is to provide a "vital transportation link" connecting northwest Indiana to Chicago and allow access to high-growth areas in Lake County.
"We are now closer than ever before to the largest commuter rail investment in Indiana history – an investment that will create thousands of jobs in Northwest Indiana and provide world-class access to Chicago, the ninth-largest economy on the planet," said Bill Hanna, chief executive officer of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. "We look forward to continuing to work together to see the new line through to completion."
Last month, the RDA approved $20 million to cover the work that needs to be done in the project development phase, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete. When finished, our partners at The Times of Northwest Indiana says the project will move into the final approval phase.
The Times says, if approved by the FTA, the federal government would pay for about half of the cost. Last year, the Indiana General Assembly approved $180 million for the project. Funding from the RDA and local governments will also go toward the expansion.