The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) proposed the West Lake Corridor Project to expand the existing commuter rail service through a 12.8km extension of the South Shore Line (SSL).

The new branch line will be linked to the current SSL and the Metra Electric District (MED) line, connecting Millennium Station in downtown Chicago, US. The expansion will provide new transit service to Hammond, Munster and Dyer.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) / record of decision (ROD) for the project in March 2018 and approved the project in October 2019. The construction of the new line will begin in 2020 and will cost approximately $933m.

After the scheduled completion in 2025, the new line will reduce the travel time and excessive parking at the existing transit stations and increase access to downtown Chicago.

West Lake Corridor Rail Link details

The project will involve the construction of a new at-grade track on a separate right of way, which will be located adjacent to the CSX Transportation Monon Subdivision railroad in Munster and Dyer. The proposed alignment will be dedicated to commuter rail services and will be free from freight rail operations.

An elevated railway section will be built between 45th Street and Canadian National Railway (CN) Elsdon Subdivision railroad at the Maynard Junction in Munster.

The alignment towards the north of the CN railroad will be at-grade and join the publicly owned former Monon Railroad corridor in Hammond and Munster.

The existing Monon Trail pedestrian bridge crosses over the Little Calumet River. It will be relocated and a new rail bridge will be built at the site of the old Monon Railroad bridge.

A fleet of electric multiple units (EMUs) will serve the new line. Each vehicle will be able to handle up to eight cars and each EMU will offer seating space for 100 passengers.

West Lake Corridor infrastructure

Four new stations will be constructed across the new line. The new stations will be located at Munster / Dyer Main Street, Munster Ridge Road, South Hammond and Hammond Gateway. Each station will feature trash receptacles, site furnishings, platforms, benches and bicycle racks. The Dyer / Munster Main Street and Hammond Gateway stations will have shelter structures.

“After the scheduled completion in 2025, the new line will reduce the travel time and excessive parking at the existing transit stations and increase access to downtown Chicago.”

The parking infrastructure at new stations will include a parking lot, kiss-and-ride space and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant parking area. The Munster / Dyer station will offer 1,333 parking spaces, while the South Hammond station will contain 761 parking spaces.

The project will also include a vehicle maintenance and storage facility with a layover yard and three traction power substations (TPSS) to power the overhead catenary system. The facility will be located in the south of Hammond Gateway Station. It will feature a maintenance building, an administration area, rail car wash facilities, a substation and storage tracks.

Funding

The federal and state governments are funding the project. The Federal New Starts Grant Programme will fund 38% of the cost, while the State of Indiana and the Regional Development Authority (RDA) will finance the remaining 62%.

West Lake Corridor Project contractors

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) issued a request for qualifications to design and build the West Lake Corridor Project in March 2019.

The short-listed contractors will work with the NICTD under a single design-build contract to deliver integrated design and construction services for the project. The contract will be awarded in 2020.