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Double Track construction bids come in higher than expected; review underway

Double Track construction bids come in higher than expected; review underway

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A South Shore Line train pulls into the Michigan City 11th Street Station around noon on Friday, the last full day of stops at the historic station. A new station will be built there as part of the railroad's Double Track project.

Bids for the main construction contract for the South Shore Line's Double Track project came in higher than expected Tuesday, when the railroad's procurement committee opened proposals of about $400 million and $425 million.

"The price is definitely higher than we had anticipated," South Shore President Michael Noland said.

The railroad had expected four bids, he said. The two it received were from F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, and from a Walsh/Herzog Joint Venture. The Paschen bid was the lower of the two.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board will now need to decide whether to accept the best bid or reject them in an effort to achieve a lower price. 

Noland said the railroad, along with its advisers and the Federal Transit Administration, will review the proposals "to find out where the bids were high and see if there's an opportunity to rebid."

He said project officials had been hearing recently that the bids would likely be high, amid a general increase in construction prices, but the bids received were still higher than anticipated.

Double Track's total budget was estimated at $491 million as NICTD concluded planning efforts last year with the FTA, which resulted in a $173 million federal New Starts grant to the project. Other funding has been pledged by the state, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Michigan City, LaPorte County, St. Joseph County and by NICTD itself, through its bonding capacity and other revenues.

The project is scheduled for completion in mid-2023, though a rebidding could impact the schedule.

Ride along with LaPorte Police Specialist Justin Dyer as he patrols the streets of LaPorte.

The bids revealed at Tuesday's procurement meeting were for the main contract for a project that will add a second set of tracks to single-track areas between Gary and Michigan City, replace or upgrade stations and bridges along the route, and move the tracks from the streets in Michigan City.

Before Tuesday's bid opening, NICTD's board in a separate meeting chose construction companies for two of Double Track's other four contracts: for new stations at Michigan City and Miller.

The new Michigan City 11th Street station, which will include a parking garage and commercial space, will be built by Larson-Danielson Construction at a cost of $16.7 million. The station, with a scheduled completion date of June 2023, will replace a station that closed Saturday for the duration of the project.

The new Gary Miller station and parking lot will be built by Hasse Construction Co. at a cost of $4.1 million. It has a scheduled completion date of May 2023.

Work there in recent weeks has included utility relocations, and the Indiana Department of Transportation is preparing to move the merger of Ind. 12 and 20 east of the train station area, vacating a current stretch of U.S. 12 that will open the area to allow track straightening, the new high-level platform and station, and other development.

The Michigan City and Miller contracts were approved pending approval by the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the local fiscal agency for the project, and by the Indiana Finance Authority, representing the state's interest in the project.

Another of the Double Track contracts, for expanded parking at the Dune Park station, was awarded to Rieth-Riley Construction Co. in March for about $440,000. The fifth contract will be for work at the Portage/Ogden Dunes Station.

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