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South Shore Line Double Track services have arrived

The Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture team delivers the NICTD South Shore Line Double-Track project on schedule and within budget.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon to signify the opening of double track service, marking the completion of the South Shore Line Double Track Project. Photo credit: NICTD

 

On May 13, the Governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, led the ribbon cutting ceremony to open the new double track service on Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) South Shore Line (SSL). The SSL commuter rail system operates between South Bend, IN and Chicago, IL. Eric Holcomb and other state, local, and federal officials gathered at the South Shore Line Miller Station in Gary, IN for the grand opening celebrations. Members of the Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture team were also present at the ceremony.

The Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture team was the lead contractor for the SSL Double Track Project. The team delivered this transformative project on schedule and within budget.

“The [Walsh-Herzog] project team fostered a sense of community among its members. Effective communication was prevalent among all parties involved,” Track Project Manager Jomo Palmer said. “I detected a collective willingness among all parties to prioritize the project’s needs.”

The project added a combined 16.9 miles of double track within a 26-mile segment of the SSL system, eliminated 21 grade crossings, and relocated nearly two miles of in-street running tracks into a dedicated guideway. These system enhancements allowed SSL to increase service capacity and frequency. The new double track train schedule, which went into effect Monday, May 13, introduces an additional 14 weekday trains for a total of 53 trains to and from Chicago. One way travel time between Michigan City and Chicago has been reduced by 40 minutes.

Miller Station in Gary, IN was completely renovated with its low-level platforms replaced with two high-level platforms, a new station building was constructed, and the parking lot expanded. Project-wide, improvements were made to five stations and over 1,200 new parking spaces were added.

 

Additional work performed by the Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture included improvements to four existing stations, the construction of a new station with level boarding platforms in downtown Michigan City, and 1,475 new parking spaces at stations. In total, 127,000 feet of track was constructed, approximately 170,000 pounds of ballast was dumped, 22 at-grade crossings were constructed, four rail bridges were built, and a new overhead electrification power system was installed for the new double track segments.

A press release from Eric Holcomb’s office stated the SSL double track project is “one of the largest public transit investments in Indiana’s history.”

The project broke ground in June 2022. Work was divided into two phases – the first phase, was centered around Michigan City to the east. To deliver the project as efficiently as possible, SSL train service was suspended through this east segment. NICTD used bus bridges to move passengers. NICTD’s decision to suspend service was made to give Walsh-Herzog JV crews longer work windows to meet the aggressive schedule. Phase 1 work wrapped in October 2023 with SSL service restored. The team shifted to Phase 2 work in the western segment centered around Gary, IN, where again, SSL service was suspended and replaced with bus bridges. By late February 2024, test trains were rolling through Gary with revenue service fully restored by April 9.

In addition to adding a second mainline track, another major project component included removing nearly two miles of in-street running track along 10th and 11th street in Michigan City. The single in-street running track was an obstacle to achieving higher train speeds and was a major public safety risk. The in-street track was removed, and the new double track system was constructed in a dedicated guideway parallel to a reconstructed 10th and 11th street. This removed 21 at-grade crossings and in-street train operations which significantly improved vehicular, cyclist, and pedestrian safety in Michigan City.

 

Michigan City Before: A South Shore Freight train travels through Michigan City, IN. Before the South Shore Line Double Track Project, the track in Michigan City went down the middle of the road. A goal of the project was to remove that track and add a dedicated guideway for train traffic adjacent to the road.

 

Michigan City After: Michigan City after the tracks had been moved to a dedicated guideway. Moving the tracks out of the road and adjacent to vehicle and pedestrian traffic helped improve the safety of the area as passenger and freight trains run through the town.

 

The Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture and subcontractors logged over 800,000 hours during the project’s two years of construction. Congratulations to the Walsh-Herzog Joint Venture team on a successful project and a job well done!