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Plan could lead to South Shore expansion

Passengers wait board as westbound trapulls midday Gary Metro stop South Shore rail line Gary Ind. Thursday October 13 2011.

Passengers wait to board as a westbound train pulls in midday at the Gary Metro stop of the South Shore rail line in Gary, Ind. Thursday October 13, 2011. The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District commissioned a report that recommends closing the Gary Metro and Miller stations and building a new station between the existing stations. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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South Shore
February
at a glance

Ridership

2012: 575,547

2013: 542,439

Change: -5.8 percent

On-time performance

2012: 88.2 percent

2013: 91.3 percent

Updated: April 24, 2013 6:11AM



CHESTERTON — The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board approved a $550,000 contract Friday for a strategic business plan to be developed jointly with the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The two groups will split the cost of the plan that will explore ways for NICTD to ease the Chicago commute for riders and will study expansion, such as the development of the West Lake corridor.

The URS Corp., of Chicago, is expected to begin work on the study about May 1. Five companies bid for the project that could take about one year to complete.

The new RDA-NICTD partnership was nearly scuttled in January when NICTD members accused the RDA of backing a House bill from a Munster Democrat that would have reconfigured the NICTD board makeup, providing more clout to Lake County mayors.

State Rep. Mara Candelaria-Reardon’s bill changed direction in the House and evolved into a summer study commission to analyze board changes and to make recommendations. Candelaria-Reardon said she wrote the bill out of frustration over a lack of progress by NICTD to extend its rail line in the West Lake corridor in Lake County.

On Friday, RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna told the NICTD board the RDA’s focus is to expand the capacity of the South Shore line. He said the RDA wasn’t involved in the House bill.

“We prefer to take a professional look at what the railroad will be 5, 10, 15 years down the line. We think it’s going to be a great investment.”

Hanna likened the transit similarities between Northwest Indiana and Chicago to New Jersey and New York City. “The potential we have to generate revenue is almost unlimited,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a $2.73 million contract with Larson-Danielson Construction of LaPorte to build a new high level platform at the Dune Park station in Chesterton. Work should begin in May and be completed by Nov. 1.



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