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South Shore Freight

A South Shore freight train passes through Michigan City. The railroad has received a grant to help it replace track between that city and LaPorte.

A U.S. Department of Transportation grant will help the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad lay new track along 7.5 miles of the freight railroad's route between Michigan City and LaPorte.

The $2.8 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant will help replace century-old 90-pound track with 115-pound track and will upgrade the crossing at U.S. 35. The new infrastructure will enhance safety and improve the reliability and efficiency of the railroad, according to the project description.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, called rail safety "a paramount concern" in Northwest Indiana and commended the railroad for identifying the grant opportunity.

"I am pleased that their initiative will further improve the safety and efficiency of the Northwest Indiana railroad system, which ultimately improves our quality of place and attracts new people and businesses to our region,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., noted the railroad's role in the regional freight system.

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“The Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad is a vital economic corridor for northern Indiana," he said. "Federal investment in this critical rail corridor will improve rail safety and support continued economic growth in this important Hoosier manufacturing region.”

The Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad operates on 182 miles of track between South Bend and Chicago, with a leg from Michigan City to Kingsbury and connections to 16 other railroads and to the Illinois International Port. It shares 75 miles of track with the South Shore Line commuter railroad. The railroad carries 50,000 carloads annually, according to its website.

“By making these improvements to our track, we will be able to enhance the safety and reliability of the service we provide to our customers," Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad President Todd Bjornstad said. "This project will also ensure we have the ability to meet future business growth needs in LaPorte County."

The grant was part of a total of $326 million awarded to 45 projects in 29 states.

“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

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Assistant Deputy Editor

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.