GUEST COMMENTARY: Michigan City invites residents to get on board

2013-02-05T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Michigan City invites residents to get on boardBy Craig Phillips nwitimes.com
February 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For more than 100 years, the South Shore Line has provided a valuable service to Michigan City. We've become accustomed to the two-mile segment of single track embedded in the middle of 10th and 11th streets. 

While we’re used to seeing the train rolling down our street, this “street running” isn't ideal. In fact, the position of the tracks limits the ability to enhance train capacity, increases costs for both railroad and street maintenance, and creates conflicts with vehicle and pedestrian traffic. These negatives are not news to Michigan City residents.

Most of us in Michigan City are familiar with the history of plans to realign the South Shore tracks. In 2011, the city and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District embarked on a large federally-funded study of possible alignments of the service. Several different locations were proposed, each with a unique set of pros and cons.

However, at a public hearing in August 2012, toward the end of the process, many citizens voiced concern about option 6A, the chosen alternative at the time, which would have located the service in close proximity to the lakefront. It became evident that additional alternatives needed to be considered as a result of that meeting.

Because a new option for the South Shore tracks is so important to Michigan City, the city has enlisted the help of an independent planning consultant to help us evaluate proposed new routes. We chose Stuart Sirota of TND Planning Group for his extensive background on the realignment issue, having been a part of the discussions since the original Andrews University design charrette in 2007.

The work completed by TND Planning has been very helpful. For instance, the research revealed that the city’s economic interests would be better served by avoiding realignment options that take the train too far south of the lakefront, North End and historic downtown. A consultant team working with NICTD, operators of the South Shore Line, reaffirmed these findings.

The independent study has provided us with insights that will enable us to make the best long-term decisions for Michigan City. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing the study with the community and inviting your feedback.

We’re hosting our first public workshop on Thursday and encourage residents to attend and learn more about the future direction of the South Shore in our city.

By combining the information we've learned in this independent study along with careful research and public input, we’re confident that our community will find a realignment solution that will benefit the city as well as the South Shore line for many years to come.

Craig Phillips is Michigan City's planning director. The opinions are the writer's.

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