The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board of trustees hopes a new strategic business plan will benefit House Bill 1450, legislation the General Assembly will look at during summer session on how the NICTD is governed.
The plan is being developed by URS Corp. at a cost of $550,000 to be split between NICTD and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. The plan will include marketing and technical aspects on how to build the railroad out in the future, where assets and investments should go and the railroad’s governance.
NICTD General Manager Gerald Hanas said the plan is a useful blueprint to interface with cities, towns and legislatures as to what the future of railroad can be.
“It’s really a renaissance plan for us,” Hanas said Friday at a board of trustees meeting. “I think it will serve well for the House commission."
RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna said the House Bill 1450 is not a product of the RDA as they prefer the scope of study of the business plan, which will take a professional look at what the rail would need five to 20 years down the line.
He told the board he believes they are being “very courageous and bold and open about pursuing that particular aspect.”
“It’s very rare to see that kind of leadership; especially in our part of the state,” he said “We think it’s going to be a great investment. We think it will be a big, groundbreaking thing that people benefit from.”
In other news, Larson-Danielson Construction Co., of LaPorte, submitted the winning bid of $2,730,545 to construct a new Dune Park high-level platform. The engineering estimate was $2,869,373. The new platform will be similar to South Shore’s Hegewisch station with improvements that include the reduction of dwell times for passengers.
The board also voted to move forward on a pilot project with govdelivery.com that will provide text and email alerts to passengers on train delays. NICTD managers will use the system during the pilot project at a cost of $6,000. The cost to the NICTD if they keep the program and pass it on to its passengers would be $25,000 to $40,000 per year, something the board said it will take “a harder look at” after the pilot project.
Also ridership was down in February compared to 2012 by 5.8 percent. NICTD spokesman John Parsons last year’s milder temperatures probably played a part in the drop and expect this month to be down as well.
Parsons also said that March 29 – Good Friday – will operate on a regular weekday schedule.