Federal Officials Get a Look at South Shore Commuter Rail Expansion Plans

(l. to r.) NICTD President/General Manager Mike Noland, Indiana Senator Todd Young, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao was in South Bend Tuesday to celebrate the completion of a project on the Indiana Toll Road and to get a look at plans for the upgrade and expansion of the South Shore commuter railroad.

After two hours of listening behind closed doors to local leaders’ pitch for federal money to double-track the South Shore Line, the nation’s top transportation official declined to talk specifically about the project publicly Tuesday.

“That is an application that is in progress and I will not talk more about it,” U.S. Transporation Secretary Elaine Chao told reporters after emerging from the meeting at the South Bend International Airport. “But suffice it to say, the bipartisan nature and the public-private partnership aspects of any project would be ones that are important to us. Once again, Indiana appears to be leading the way.”

Standing behind her at the podium were Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown and Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville.

Chao said her decision to bring several high-level staff members with her on the visit indicates its importance

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority President and CEO Bill Hanna had the opportunity to brief Secretary Chao on the project, along with NICTD President and General Manager Mike Noland (Bill’s presentation can be found here). The RDA would like to thank Secretary Chao for her time; and Gov. Eric Holcomb, Senator Todd Young and Congressman Pete Visclosky for the opportunity to brief the Secretary.

Together, the West Lake Corridor project in Lake County and the double tracking project across northern Indiana are projected to roughly double South Shore ridership; attract an estimated 11,000 new residents to Lake and Porter counties; create more than 6,000 new jobs in Indiana; and catalyze approximately $2 billion in private investment in Lake, Porter, LaPorte and St. Joseph counties over the next 20 years. For more details, download the RDA’s updated strategic plan.

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