Board OKs long-term transportation plan
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 30, 2014 4:16PM
Updated: July 1, 2014 6:54AM
CHESTERTON — The board of directors of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District on Friday approved its 20-Year Strategic Business Plan, which was unveiled this week.
The plan, prepared by the consulting firm URS Corp., includes a $1.5 billion investment over the 20 years and includes everything from routine maintenance to realigning routes on the South Shore commuter rail line and improving the three stations that serve Gary.
The plan also includes the commuter line’s West Lake extension, heading south from Hammond into Munster and Dyer, at an estimated cost of about $571 million.
The resolution passed by the NICTD board included a commitment to working with the Regional Development Authority to secure the necessary non-federal funding for the plan.
In other business, NICTD spokesman John Parsons said the board approved a bid for about $1 million to upgrade the electrical substation serving the Portage/Ogden Dunes station.
The board also heard ridership and on-time performance reports for April, which saw a 2.2 percent increase in ridership over April 2013 to 310,647.
“It’s the first time we’ve had ridership in excess of 300,000 passengers since October of last year,” Parsons said.
The commuter trains also were on time during peak rush-hour periods 98 percent of the time during April. Trains are considered on time when they arrive within six minutes of the scheduled arrival time.
“Our customers had a rough winter. We had a rough winter. It’s nice to bounce back,” Parsons said.
The board also learned more about Friday’s rollout of a new ticketing app for smartphones that allows passengers to purchase tickets and receive an email receipt for their purchase.
In a survey last year, more than 70 percent of South Shore riders had smartphones, according to NICTD. District officials expect mobile ticketing to grow in popularity and said they’ll be continually upgrading the app.