Mishler_2013State Senators Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen), Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores), Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso), Rick Niemeyer (R-Lowell) and Linda Rogers (R-Granger) Wednesday announced their strong support of the state budget’s inclusion of funding to complete the South Shore Line’s proposed West Lake extension and double tracking projects.

The South Shore Line is an electric commuter train between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Bend International Airport in South Bend. This line provides vital economic opportunities to northern Indiana, such as bringing new jobs and residents to the area.

To improve upon this important transportation link, the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), which operates the South Shore Line, has proposed the West Lake extension and double tracking projects.

The West Lake Corridor Project would create a southern branch extension to reach high-growth areas in Lake County, and the double tracking project would expand the South Shore Line from a single track to double track between Gary and Michigan City as well as improve five passenger stations.

House Enrolled Act 1001, which passed the General Assembly Wednesday, will provide up to $205 million to fund these rail projects. This is in addition to the $12 million per year for the 30 years the state currently appropriates from the General Fund.

The increased funding to complete these northern Indiana rail projects will help fill the gaps that are expected to result from a reduction in federal support.

This funding for the South Shore Line’s project will be paid for through the Next Level Connections fund.

“I believe these rail projects are the biggest economic development advancement to happen in northern Indiana in my lifetime,” Mishler, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said. “The South Shore Line is integral to our local communities and will serve as a valuable investment to the people of northern Indiana.”

Additionally, HEA 1001 will also restructure the NICTD board, which operates the South Shore Line. The board will now include membership with the Indiana Department of Transportation, while retaining local officials as a majority of the members. These changes will not affect day-to-day operations of the train.