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Munster TOD

Shown is the Monon rail corridor and bike trail that is the preferred route for the South Shore West Lake Corridor extension with a station just south of Ridge Road in Munster. The railroad now plans to put a station north of Ridge.

CHESTERTON — The West Lake Corridor commuter railroad station planned for Ridge Road in Munster will be northwest of its intersection with Manor Avenue, according to a plan revision approved Friday by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board of trustees.

Previous plans had called for the station to be located southeast of the intersection.

The board also approved South Shore Line managers' recommendation to put the West Lake Corridor's layover yard at the maintenance facility planned for north Hammond, rather than in Dyer at the line's termination just south of Main Street.

In addition, the revised plan includes a move of the South Hammond Station closer to 173rd Street than originally planned, and splitting its parking lot so parking will be available on both the north and south sides of 173rd.

The changes were based on requests from the three municipalities through which the line will pass, South Shore President and General Manager Michael Noland said.

The Ridge Road station in particular had inspired opposition, both from owners of homes that would have been acquired and from nearby residents. "We received a tremendous amount of commentary" on the plan during public meetings on the project, Noland said.

The new location is on property owned by the town. The plan calls for the station parking to be on the west side of Manor Avenue, with the platform on the east side of Manor between the road and train tracks.

The four-track layover yard planned for the triangle of land bounded by Main Street, Sheffield Avenue and the railroad tracks will be moved to the Hammond maintenance yard southwest of Hudson Street and Sheffield Avenue.

Sidings will allow trains to pass in opposite directions, similar to the practice along the currently single-tracked portion of the South Shore.

The land southeast of Main Street and the railroad in Dyer will be used for handicapped parking, "kiss and ride" drop-offs and pick-ups, and stormwater management.

The South Hammond Station was planned to be entirely northeast of the intersection of 173rd and Lyman Avenue. The new footprint shifts its center southward, with a new parking access point at 175th Avenue.

The board approved the revisions unanimously. Board member Christine Cid, a Lake County councilwoman, said she was pleased to be able to make the changes.

"I'm glad to see we have listened and we are willing to take action," Cid said.

Munster resident Pam Eanes, whose home would have been near the station, according to the original plan, said she's pleased it won't be in her neighborhood, but is still concerned the railroad will hurt home values.

Nevertheless, "I think that was the best outcome we could hope for at this time," she said of Friday's vote.

Noland said the project is still on track to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation in early September for its consideration for 50-percent funding of the $600 million-plus project. If the project is selected and included in the fiscal year 2019 budget, construction could begin in 2020 and be completed in 2022.

On Friday, the board of trustees also approved Noland's request to study a potential track shift along the current South Shore Line at the location of its Hammond station, which will not be used when the West Lake project is complete.

The potential shift would bend the track south, then back north, in order to open up land currently occupied by the train station and parking lot. Noland described the plan as having the potential to open up railroad-owned land for transit-oriented development after West Lake and double-tracking are complete.

"We could see this as a phase two opportunity for the railroad," Noland said.

Also Friday, the board approved paying engineering firm DLZ about $1.2 million for preliminary engineering work for the relocation of the South Shore station at South Bend International Airport and the realigning of tracks in the city.

The project would significantly shorten the route and cut the number of at-grade road crossings in South Bend. The project was included in NICTD's five-year capital plan with a cost estimate of $20 million.

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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.