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Rail projects seen as transformational for Region

A South Shore Line train pulls into the Miller station. The commuter railroad is planning a fare increase to take effect July 1.

John J. Watkins, The Times, file

GARY — Several Miller residents supported a proposed South Shore Line fare increase of about 5 percent at a public hearing Monday at the Carter G. Woodson branch of the Gary Public Library. The increase would take effect July 1, if approved by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's board of trustees next month.

The fare increase would help cover operating costs associated with the Positive Train Control safety system now being installed, railroad officials say.

"As a senior rider of the South Shore, I think raising the senior rate from $3.50 to $3.75 from Miller is still the best deal in town," George Rogge said.

The increase of 5 percent, rounded to the nearest 25 cents, would raise the regular one-way fare to Chicago from stations in Hammond through Michigan City by 50 cents. That would take the ticket price from Hammond and East Chicago to $7; a ticket from Michigan City would be $10.25. East of Michigan City, the increase would be 75 cents per ride, rising to $14.25 from South Bend.

Monthly ticket increases would range from $9.50 to $12, with a new monthly ticket from Hammond and East Chicago costing $197.25, and from Michigan City $296.75.

The increase does not apply to the Hegewisch station, where fares are controlled by Metra. A fare increase there on Feb. 1 took a one-way ticket into Chicago to $6.25 and a monthly ticket to $181.25.

The increase would yield about $1.2 million annually, according to NICTD.

Installation of the Positive Train Control project — a federally mandated system that allows tracking of trains and computer-controlled emergency braking when necessary — is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

"It's a great safety system," South Shore President Michael Noland said. But it will require more employees, and insurance required by the technology's provider.

"We believe we're going to need to have 11 new full-time positions," Noland said.

Monday's hearing followed three last week. Noland said seven people appeared at those. A final hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. CDT Tuesday in the Studebaker Room at South Bend International Airport.

Railroad officials intend to ask the NICTD board to vote on the new fares at its May 18 meeting.

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Transportation reporter

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.