South Bend train

The South Shore Train heads west on Wednesday along Bendix Avenue in South Bend. South Bend and St. Joseph County officials are backing a project to dramatically reduce travel times between the city and Chicago.

Strong momentum and support for extended and improved commuter rail service between northern Indiana and Chicago is expanding eastward.

Now it's time for some straggling Northwest Indiana leaders, who sit in the potential economic nucleus of an improved South Shore Line, to follow that example and get on board.

As May came to a close, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a rising star on the national political scene, announced his city had pledged $25 million toward improving the commuter rail line there.

The money, to be tapped from a South Bend TIF district, would be used for track realignment and a new airport approach for the rail.

It's a visionary extension of a greater project to double-track the existing South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City to speed commutes and to extend the line from Hammond to Dyer.

Soon, St. Joseph County, home to South Bend, is expected to approve $18.25 million to help double-track 16 miles of the commuter rail line in Northwest Indiana.

That's important to note. The double tracking isn't physically slated to occur in St. Joseph County. But leaders there see the benefit that faster commutes will bring to communities farther east on the rail line.

In short, they see a potential quality of life and economic benefit arising from contributing to a project physically outside of St. Joseph County's borders.

We hope this style of greater-good thinking inspires some Northwest Indiana communities to see the benefits of dedicating funds to rail expansion.

Michigan City, which stands to benefit from the double-tracking, is poised to formally commit $12.1 million to the project. The LaPorte County Council allocated $6.1 million for it last week.

Hammond, a city directly on the existing line and that could benefit from a new gateway station in the West Lake Corridor project, has yet to formally pledge funds.

Last summer, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. noted, "You're not going to find too many places where you can get a 10-to-1 return on your money" like an investment in South Shore Line expansion.

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"Do you want to be on the train, or do you want to be on the sidelines complaining?" McDermott asked the council members before their vote to conditionally support the commuter rail extension between Dyer and Hammond.

But Hammond has yet to formally board the figurative train that would mean a new economy of development, quality of life and commuter rail access throughout our Region.

We hope the Hammond mayor remembers his own words and leads his city to the boarding platform.

Some Lake County communities also continue to balk at contributing to the Hammond-to-Dyer extension, in some cases questioning the benefits of investing in a project not directly within their borders.

But investing in the South Shore expansion represents a direct investment in the entire Region's success and prosperity.

Northwest Indiana's neighbors to the east get it. So should we.


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.