What is the Michigan City Alternative Realignment Study?
The City of Michigan City and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) have undertaken a transportation planning project related to the existing South Shore Line that currently operates on street, along 10th and 11th Streets. The purpose is to systematically evaluate a set of options for realigning the South Shore commuter railroad through Michigan City and to arrive at a consensus on a preferred alignment that is in the best interests of Michigan City and NICTD.
Based on public and stakeholder comment, the consultant will work with the City and NICTD to reach consensus on a preferred alternative that:
- Improves mobility for every community served by the South Shore, especially residents of Michigan City and LaPorte County.
- Enhances the environment by improving air quality through reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the reliance on foreign oil.
- Minimizes adverse impacts on water quality.
- Achieves operating efficiencies and improves the state of good repair for Michigan City and the railroad.
- Enhances the economic impact/development potential to Michigan City.
- Meets the criteria identified in City Resolutions #4435 and #4452.
The study requires extensive analysis and “due diligence”. Throughout the year-long study process, there will be a very thorough data collection process, stakeholder and public involvement process and extensive planning, engineering, and economic development analysis that will lead to the ultimate goal of building a consensus, on a preferred alignment.
In order to reach a consensus on a preferred alignment, a progressive screening process is proposed. The screening process is based on the goals and evaluation criteria that were established at the onset of the study, including impact on transportation system, environment, community and economics. The evaluation critera establishes the basis from which each of the alternatives will be analyzed. The screening process is a two-tiered screening process and will be both qualitative and quantitative. The initial screening will assign a weight to each evaluation criteria and determine how well the alternative meets the criterion. At the end of the initial screening, alternatives will be ranked in order to determine how well each meets the criterion. At the end of this process, it is expected that a preferred alignment will be selected.
For over a century, the South Shore has provided service in Michigan City along a 2-mile segment of single-track that is embedded in the middle of 10th and 11th Street. This “street running” adversely impacts train operations, constrains the ability to enhance capacity, increases railroad and street maintenance costs, creates unnecessary conflicts with vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
For the past 50-60 years, various owners and interested stakeholders of the railroad have explored realignment proposals. Over the past five years, Michigan City and NICTD have worked on exploring feasible realignment options. NICTD believes the selected realignment must be cost-effective, enhance railroad and vehicular safety, improve railroad operating flexibility and capacity, improve operating speeds, reduce long term maintenance costs and consolidate the two Michigan City stations into one station with high level boarding platforms, adequate parking, enclosed passenger waiting area with restrooms and ticketing services. The City feels that by realigning the tracks
and developing a new, modern, intermodal station, there will be substantial economic benefits for the City. Michigan City also wants to improve its access to Chicago Loop employment and enhance its attractiveness as a destination for the Chicago leisure market. Furthermore, the City feels the project can also be an initiative to improve streetscapes, pedestrian access and the overall quality of life in the City. On December 2, 2009, the City passed Resolution 4435 supporting the Realignment Study and goals for the project. Resolution 4435 can be found here. The Resolution put forth the following elements for this study:
- Sensitivity to quality of life in terms of noise, vibration, and visual impacts
- Sensitivity to the Historic District including minimizing impacts to historic structures and/or relocation/re-use of historic structures whenever possible
- Developing attractive streetscape designs
- Maintenance of the corridor
- The construction of a full service train station with appropriate amenities, inter-modal capabilities, and with appropriate architecture
- Minimizing street closures while prioritizing the need for maintaining adequate vehicular and pedestrian circulation through Michigan City
- Providing attractive fencing is required, as well as attractive landscaping and vegetative buffers
- Maximizing the beneficial economic impact, including transit oriented development, to the City
- Maximizing compatibility and collaboration with other railroads, including Amtrak
- Pursuing a funding strategy for construction of multi-story parking structures, rather than surface parking in order to maximize efficiencies, accessibility and use and economic development potential and minimize property acquisition and displacements
- Developing an intermodal bus/train transfer center at the new South Shore station that is compatible with the nearby streetscape, surrounding neighborhood, and land uses in the area.
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Current Funding for this Study
This study is being funded through an $800,000 TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II Planning Grant which was awarded by the US Department of Transportation to NICTD in October 2010. Both the City and NICTD provided $100,000 in local match funds for a total study cost of $1,000,000. The project is also receiving support from the South Shore Freight Service, Michigan City’s Department of Redevelopment, and the Michigan City Economic Development Corporation. This study will recognize the principles of transit oriented development.
What is Transit-Oriented Development?
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is the creation of compact, walkable communities centered around transit stations. A TOD can include multiple-unit housing and mixed use projects that support the public investment in rail and bus service because they preserve, enhance, or contribute to creating active pedestrian districts within walking distance of transit. TODs increase the density of people near transit, including residents, employees, visitors, and customers in a built environment that is pedestrian friendly.
Focusing housing and employment near transit is one of the most effective ways to reduce regional road congestion, improve air quality and increase transit ridership. Car trips are less frequent in town centers around transit stations with a balance of jobs, housing and urban amenities. Focusing development in existing urban areas uses land more efficiently, reduces the need for costly new public facilities and prevents unnecessary conversion of farmland and natural areas to urban use. It can spur the revitalization of existing neighborhoods, stimulating the creation of more vibrant communities throughout the region.
Transit-oriented development can provide many benefits:
- Congestion reduction
- Consumer savings and improved affordability
- Improved safety due to reduced traffic crashes
- Improved mobility options for non-drivers, including public transit, walking, and cycling
- Improved public fitness and health
- Road and parking facility cost savings
- Increased local property values and household wealth
- Energy conservation and emission reductions
- More dollars circulating in the local economy
- Increased foot traffic and customers for area businesses
- Enhanced ability to maintain economic competitiveness
TOD is feasible among various types of transit services—from commuter rail to light rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit services. There are many examples of TOD along commuter rail services including examples in Chicago along many of the Metra commuter rail lines as well as many national examples. Arlington Heights and Palatine, Illinois both have redeveloped their downtowns over the last 15 years based on TOD principles. National examples include developments along the MARTA commuter rail line in Atlanta Georgia, in particular the Lindbergh Station. In the early 2000s, as part of the Lindbergh City Center project, two large office buildings, retail, restaurants and parking decks were constructed on MARTA owned land above the station and in 2005 ground was broken across Piedmont for a large new urbanist development.
Other national examples include TOD developments surrounding bus services and streetcars. The Holiday Neighborhood TOD project in Boulder Colorado has turned a greyfield site into a low-rise, mixed-use, residential community that is transit-supportive, energy efficient, and takes advantage of Boulder’s substantial existing bike and bus infrastructure. Portland, Oregon is one of the leading examples of TOD along its streetcar and light rail service lines. In 2001, the Portland Streetcar opened as part of a unique public/private strategy to link investment in high quality transit service with major redevelopment. The project has resulted in significant changes and economic development along the streetcar corridor:
- $3.5 billion has been invested within two blocks of the streetcar alignment.
- 10,000 new housing units and 5.4 million square feet of office, institutional, retail and hotel construction have been constructed within two blocks of the alignment.
- 55% of all Portland Central Business District development since 1997 has occurred within 1-block of the streetcar.
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Re-alignment Options Under Study
The study examines seven re-alignment options in the North, Central and South corridors. The basic description of these alignments is as follows. Refer to the alignment map.
10th/11th Street (Central) Corridor: This alignment would follow close to the current 10th/11th Street corridor for the South Shore Line but would be located off-street onto existing residential property. On the west side of the City at Sheridan Street, the tracks would be relocated along a new right-of-way south of 10th Street until approximately Kentucky
Street and 11th Street. At that point the existing embedded tracks would be relocated to the south side of 11th Street on new right-of-way, paralleling 11th Street until it meets up with the existing NICTD right-of-way east of Michigan Boulevard.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (3.63MB)
CSX (South) Corridor: Main operation would be on the CSX Railroad right-of-way that currently exists in the southern part of Michigan City. On the west end of the City, the South Shore Line would transition to the CSX via new right-of-way until it reaches the CSX Railroad
west of Ohio Street. Transition back to NICTD right-of-way would occur at Karwick Park on the east end.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (9.52MB)
North Corridor: From the west, the South Shore Line would leave the existing NICTD right-of-way at U.S. 12 and operate adjacent to the NIPSCO tracks and yard until the point it reaches the Amtrak tracks near Wabash Street. At this point, there would then be a crossover to the south side of Amtrak, east of Franklin Street and then pass through the former Pioneer lumber yard, curve under US 12, follow Michigan Boulevard down to the Marina, curve east and follow Trail Creek by the Michigan City Sanitary District property to Dickson Street where it would join the existing South Shore Line tracks to Carroll Avenue yard and to the east.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (1.40MB)
North Corridor: From the west, the South Shore Line would leave the existing NICTD right-of-way at U.S. 12 and operate adjacent to the NIPSCO tracks and yard until the point it reaches the Amtrak tracks near Wabash Street. At this point, there would then be a crossover to the south side of Amtrak, east of Franklin Street and then parallel Amtrak alignment (same grade) over Trail Creek to the old Nickel Plate right-of-way south of US 12 (at grade) down to
Dickson Street where it would join the existing South Shore Line tracks to Carroll Avenue yard and to the east.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (4.13MB)
North Corridor: From the west, the South Shore Line would leave the existing NICTD right-of-way at U.S. 12 and operate adjacent to the NIPSCO tracks and yard until the point it reaches the Amtrak tracks near Wabash Street. At this point, it would then follow an elevated alignment (i.e. a bridge structure) over Franklin Street, Amtrak, Trail Creek and US 12 to the old Nickel Plate right-of-way down to Dickson Street where it would join the existing South Shore Line to Carroll Avenue yard and to the east.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (5.41MB)
North Corridor: From the west, the South Shore Line would leave the existing NICTD right-of-way at U.S. 12 and operate adjacent to the NIPSCO tracks and yard until the point it reaches the Amtrak tracks near Wabash Street. At this point, new tracks would pass over Amtrak and operate along the U.S. 12 right-of-way. U. S. 12 would be relocated north of its current right-of-way between the new South Shore tracks and the existing Amtrak tracks. The tracks would continue over Trail Creek (at-grade bridge) to the old Nickel Plate right-of-way south of the relocated US 12 down to Dickson Street where they would join the existing South Shore Line tracks to Carroll Avenue yard and to the east.
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (1.45MB)
Click here to view this option on the overview map. (1.45MB)
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Questions & Answers
Who is responsible for executing?
This is a joint study managed by both Michigan City and NICTD. The final recommendations will represent a consensus by both entities. Once this study is completed, it will be up to both entities to jointly determine “next steps”. To view the final study report, click here (PDF - 6MB).
In what timeframe will this occur?
The study began in April 2011 and is projected to be completed in approximately one year. After the conclusion of the study, a preferred alignment will be selected. Next steps will be identified at that point and include obtaining additional funding for design engineering, completing Phase II design plans, preparation of bid documents, land acquisition, and construction. No timetable has been set for any of these future steps. Refer to the attached schedule to see the timeline for this phase of the study.
What is the reason for this analysis?
The “street running” of trains adversely impacts train operations, constrains the ability to enhance capacity, increases railroad and street maintenance costs and creates unnecessary conflicts with parallel vehicular and cross traffic. In addition, economic development opportunities, in particular transit oriented development, around station areas are strongly tied with fixed route transit services. Both Michigan City and NICTD believe that by introducing a faster and safer operation, as well as a modern intermodal station, the benefits of taking transit, will continue to enhance the City’s attractiveness for its amenities, including the Lakefront, Blue Chip Casino, and Lighthouse Mall.
Who do I contact for additional information?
Contact: Craig Phillips
219-873-1419 x 324
How do I share my views?
The study process allows for active public participation and stakeholder input. The first Public Open House will be held on Thursday, September 8, 2011 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Michigan City, City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Boulevard. In the meantime, please feel free to share your views, comments and /or additional information to the project team.
Did You Know?
- Michigan City is unique in having both a commuter rail line commonly called the South Shore Line (under the direction of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)) and a privately owned commercial freight line known as the South Shore Freight Service. Both run at grade through the heart of the city and in close proximity to the Central Business District.
- The South Shore provides commuter rail service from South Bend, Indiana to Chicago. The South Shore Line makes multiple stops a day in Michigan City. It is estimated that 320 daily passengers board in Michigan City, roughly 5% of the Line’s total passengers. There are two commuter rail stops in Michigan City at 503 N. Carroll Ave. and 11th and Pine. Passenger accommodations include heated shelters and paved parking.
- There is an average of seven South Shore Freight trains a day that pass through Michigan City. South Shore Freight service transports roughly 523,000 tons of freight through Michigan City annually.
- As rail transportation has evolved; fueled by market demand, NICTD is seeking operational efficiencies, and safety enhancements to improve service delivery. Michigan City presents a unique challenge with its density of rail crossings, middle of the street operation, and asphalt embedded tracks. This operating scenario has prompted the need for a comprehensive analysis to realign the tracks and improve the existing rail system within Michigan City. The result will be improved travel speeds thru the city, enhanced safety and reliability, increased capacity, cost savings from maintenance, and a major new consolidated ADA compliant station that can anchor future development.
- Realignment of the rail corridor is consistent with Michigan City’s goal to revitalize the downtown with new housing units and supportive commercial uses, making the North End sustainable. The continuing question has been where to locate a new line to best serve the public (current and potential riders) and to enhance economic development for all residents of Michigan City.
- Recognizing the significant improvements needed to the existing line, a new rail station serving Michigan City has for many years been identified as a necessity.
- Linking rail development (consistent with current development standards) while maximizing economic growth potential would address both the directives of Michigan City and NICTD. It is projected that positive benefits to the City and its residents would result from a realigned rail corridor, through ridership, new investment and increased public demand for services.
- Building on prior efforts, Michigan City and NICTD have now joined to initiate the current Michigan City Alternative Realignment Study to evaluate viable options to address the concerns referenced.
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