(Michigan City, IN) - Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb helped drive spikes into rail lines expected to bring significant economic growth to Michigan City by noticeably reducing commute times by train to and from Chicago.
Holcomb, along with other elected officials and dignitaries, hit the spikes with sledgehammers during a ceremony at the former South Shore Railroad commuter line train station on 11th Street just east of Franklin Street.
“It’s a reality now. It’s just not a blueprint or a lofty goal,” Governor Holcomb said.
The current single line put in the ground over a century ago is being replaced with two rail lines from Michigan City to Gary.
What’s now a 90-minute or longer trip to Chicago from Michigan City will take about one hour once construction is completed next year. Nearly 45 minutes will be taken off a one-way trip to Chicago from South Bend.
Several intersections from Michigan Boulevard to Sheridan Avenue near Indiana State Prison are closed for laying new rail lines that started being put in the ground several weeks ago.
“We are now in full construction mode,” said Jim Arnold, a former Indiana State Senator from LaPorte and member of the board governing the commuter service.
Quicker travel is projected to generate enough economic growth from new visitors and residents from Chicago to make the project worth the over $600 million price tag funded primarily by federal money. The state and local municipalities along the line are also contributing dollars.
“This is a game-changer,” said LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jack Arnett.
The long sought-after project is already credited with attracting three high-rise residential developments scheduled to begin going up on the city’s north side later this year.
Former Michigan City Mayor and current LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said the second set of tracks had been discussed and pursued since the 1980s.
She said previous attempts to secure dollars from the nation’s capital to pay for the work failed but local, state, and federal officials came together more aggressively, perhaps, this time to make it happen.
Matias said the additional money projected to be generated from tourism would help a local economy with a good-sized manufacturing base. She said the upgrades would also send a positive message about LaPorte County, which is ripe for catching up with Porter and St. Joseph counties regarding average household income and development.
“I want to be clear that we’re not just saying the double track is all about tourism. It’s about making sure our community is contemporary. That’s it progressive and developing in a smart and sustainable fashion,” Matias said.