SOUTH BEND — The state is expected to spend tens of millions of dollars to help fund the double-tracking of the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City — a project that would sharply cut travel times from South Bend to Chicago.
Funding for the project is expected to come via the two-year state budget that the Indiana General Assembly will likely approve in coming days, said state Sen. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend.
Indiana's House, Senate and Gov. Eric Holcomb have already indicated their support. The state plans to sell bonds to come up with its $72.5 million share of the $290 million project.
The state would pay the bonds back with interest over 30 years, making $6 million annual payments that would add up to $180 million.
But funding will still be needed from the federal government and four counties: St. Joseph, LaPorte, Porter and Lake. Railroad officials believe the state's commitment would add the momentum needed to get the rest of the funding and complete the project by late 2020.
The railroad's owner and operator, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, wants to make improvements to the line that would cut the travel time from South Bend to Chicago by up to an hour — bringing it from 2½ hours to 90 minutes.
The double-tracking project calls for building a second parallel track for a 17-mile stretch between Michigan City and Gary, removing the tracks from streets in Michigan City and eliminating a stop there, and elevating boarding platforms at major stops. By adding the parallel track, trains would no longer need to stop for oncoming freight trains to pass through.