South Shore Line South Bend station

A South Shore Line train sits at the South Bend International Airport station.

Kale Wilk, The Times

The South Shore Line's West Lake Corridor and Double Track NWI projects formally took a major step forward Friday.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, operator of the South Shore Line, announced early Friday evening it filed applications with the Federal Transit Administration seeking project ratings for both the West Lake Corridor and South Shore Line’s Double Track projects.

This infrastructure investment package totals more $977 million and represents the single largest investment in commuter rail in the South Shore’s history, according to NICTD. The investment will enhance safety, expand service and provide quicker travel times to and from Chicago.

Proponents also believe it will serve as a catalyst for major economic development around the Region. 

"This is an exciting day and a key milestone in seeking federal funding," said Mike Noland, South Shore Line president. "We are requesting that 50 percent of the project funding be covered by the federal government with the balance covered by a combination of already committed state and local funds."

Noland expects to know the results of the rating process by early February as the Administration prepares its 2019 budget.

The FTA will now evaluate and rate the projects. Noland said his group will continue to wrap-up the environmental work for both the West Lake and Double Track projects. 

U.S. Rep. Pete Vislosky, D-Merrillville, said he appreciates the collaboration seen throughout the process and called Friday's filing an essential step in the process.

"It will build upon our industrial base and create new jobs by enhancing our quality of place and attracting businesses to remain, start, relocate, and expand in our region," he said. "We would not be where we are today without the steadfast support of NICTD, the RDA, Governor Holcomb, my colleagues in the General Assembly, and local communities and citizen groups. I am deeply grateful for all of their aggressive work to get us to this point in our journey, but this is only another step, albeit an important one, towards success."

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