Plans show each station will have parking, drop-off areas, pedestrian and bicycle access, and extensive landscaping — “Everything is designed with sustainability in mind,” Noland said.
The South Shore already has acquired 100 of the 157 privately-owned properties needed for the project, with very few requiring condemnation.
“The Federal Relocation Act is very beneficial to property owners. We’ve been treating them very fairly,” he said.
Noland also said planning and preparations for the West Lake project have not negatively been impacted by COVID-19, even though ridership on the existing South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend only is at 17% of pre-pandemic levels — triple last month’s ridership.
“COVID-19 is not slowing down our projects at all,” he said. “We are deemed essential projects, both our day-to-day activity and the project development activity. So we have not had any COVID-19 slowdowns to date.”
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore Line, also is continuing to move forward with design plans for double tracking the current rail line between Gary and Michigan City to speed commutes to and from Chicago.
Nicole Barker, manager of the Double Track NWI project, said NICTD anticipates applying for a federal grant commitment in March 2021, with approval and the start of construction planned for July 2021, and double-tracked service beginning in late September 2023.