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A westbound South Shore Line train arrives at the East Chicago train station

A westbound South Shore Line train arrives at the East Chicago train station. The railroad is in the process of contracting with a company to provide the software platform to allow passengers and others to monitor each train's progress along the system.

MICHIGAN CITY — South Shore Line riders and others interested in the progress of its trains will soon have a tool to monitor their progress in real time.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's Board of Trustees authorized the railroad Friday to enter into a contract with Florida-based ETA Transit to provide the platform for computer and mobile real-time monitoring.

The South Shore's trains will be tracked on a map, and the app will provide details on scheduled and expected arrival times.

The service would cost $58,500 per year, for up to five years.

South Shore officials expect it to be available to the public by the end of the year.

The ETA Transit purchase was one of several approved Friday.

The board also authorized the purchase of 38 crossing gate mechanisms to upgrade 19 rail crossings currently served only by flashing warning lights. The $168,074 purchase is part of a $1.3 million crossing safety project funded by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The board also approved buying railroad ties for 2018 in the amount of $510,225. And, it approved the purchase of eight refurbished ballast cars at a price of $343,672.

The cars, which carry the ballast that supports railroad ties, will replace cars dating from the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Double Track and West Lake

The NICTD board authorized South Shore President Michael Noland to negotiate contracts with three property title firms for work that will be necessary to purchase properties for the Double Track and West Lake Corridor projects.

Meridian Title, Fidelity National Title and Community Title will be offered the opportunity to provide title and closing services. NICTD Attorney Charles Lukmann said the railroad will need services for 400 to 500 titles "on a much shorter time frame" than normal closings.

Property purchases could begin next year. 

South Shore officials are also continuing negotiations with engineering firms to do the final engineering work for the Double Track project. A contract for that could be finalized by the end of the year.

South Bend realignment

The plan to move the railroad's South Bend station from the east to west side of the South Bend International Airport, and to reroute tracks through the area to shorten the route, remains on hold at the request of South Bend officials.

"The city asked us to pause while the city studies a number of different potential options," Noland said.

Those options include locating the station elsewhere, including downtown. South Bend has hired the engineering firm AECOM to study several alternatives. South Bend has pledged $25 million to the project, and is considering the best return it can get from the investment.

"The mayor and (city) council want to make sure they're getting the best bang for their buck," NICTD board member Mark Catanzarite, a St. Joseph county councilman, said.

The South Shore's goal is to reduce its South Bend-to-Chicago travel time to 90 minutes.

Retirements

South Shore leaders also marked the retirements of two long-time leaders. NICTD Police Chief Robert Byrd and Vice President for Planning and Marketing John Parsons are both retiring by the end of the year.

Byrd has been a full-time officer with NICTD for 28 years. Parsons has been with the railroad for 25 years.

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Transportation Reporter

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.