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South Shore Commuters

A westbound South Shore Line train prepares to depart the East Chicago train station.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's West Lake Corridor project passed a milestone Friday when the railroad announced that the Federal Transit Administration has released a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the nine-mile extension of the South Shore Line.

The FTA determined that the environmental study meets the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which governs a project's impact on the natural environment and on the communities affected by it.

The Final EIS is a revised edition of a Draft EIS published in late 2016, incorporating plan updates and stakeholder input. NICTD prepared the study, which has 11 chapters and eight technical appendices, in cooperation with the FTA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"On behalf of the NICTD team, I appreciate the tremendous effort, input and support received from our public stakeholders, local organizations and legislative leaders who have worked with us in advancing the project to this important milestone," NICTD President Michael Noland said in the railroad's announcement of the Final EIS's publication.

The Record of Decision includes environmental mitigation measures required for the project to receive federal funds.

The West Lake Corridor would run from Hammond to Dyer. The project has an estimated price-tag of $665 million, and is currently in a federal grant process that would pay half that cost.

NICTD is also in the process of completing an Environmental Assessment for the proposed Double Track NWI project, which would add a second set of tracks between Gary and Michigan City and make improvements to stations along the line. The EA is a shorter study, required for projects with a lighter impact. That process concludes with a Finding of No Significant Impact by the FTA.

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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.