South Shore projects on track

A westbound train arrives at the South Shore commuter railroad’s East Chicago station. The rail line is in the process of creating environmental studies for two major infrastructure projects — the West Lake extension and double-tracking from Gary to Michigan City.

File photo

CHESTERTON — Studies for the South Shore Line’s two major infrastructure projects — the West Lake extension to Dyer and addition of a second track from Gary to Michigan City — remain on track to be submitted to the federal government for review next year.

Michael Noland, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District general manager, told the railroad’s board Friday that officials hosted a June meeting of agencies involved in creating an environmental impact statement for the double-tracking project. They also led a tour of both project sites for federal officials.

The engineering firm HDR has begun the environmental assessment for the double-tracking project.

“We’re up and running on this,” Noland said of the project, which has an estimated cost of $210 million.

Meanwhile, a draft environmental impact statement for the West Lake corridor is in a second round of revisions with the goal of publishing it this fall. A 45-day public comment period will follow that.

The railroad would then select its preferred route and station placement for the project.

NICTD has also put out a request for proposals for engineering the $571 million West Lake project, with the intention of interviewing finalists in August and selecting an engineering firm in September.

Lightning strike interrupts heavy-traffic day

Thursday ridership on the South Shore Line was 20 to 30 percent above normal, with Lollapalooza starting and the Cubs-White Sox series concluding.

But at about 3 p.m., “out of the blue sky came a thunderbolt,” Noland said. The lightning struck the railroad’s electric lines and stranded an eastbound train west of the Bishop Ford Expressway.

More than 300 passengers were on the train. A South Shore Freight locomotive was sent to retrieve the train and an “armada” of maintenance workers undertook repairs, with service disrupted for several hours, Noland said.

Meanwhile, NICTD’s website was hit by a “denial of service” attack, flooding the site with service requests and making it impossible for people to access the site for information about the service disruption.

Boris Matakovic, NICTD chief information officer, said the site has been hit several times this year with denial of service attacks. Such attacks involve blocking access to a website, usually by overpowering it with requests from multiple IP addresses.

Railroad officials recommend riders follow the South Shore on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up for text alerts, to receive service-related updates when problems occur. Visit for more information and a letter from Noland concerning Thursday’s events.

The South Shore Line is offering teachers free rides on the weekend and off-peak weekday trains from Monday through Aug. 7. Teachers must show a school ID to participate.


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.