Frequently Asked Questions

What is the West Lake Corridor Project?

The West Lake Corridor Project would be an approximate 8-mile southern extension of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s (NICTD) existing South Shore Line (SSL) between Dyer and Hammond, Indiana. Trains on the new branch line would connect with the existing SSL and ultimately Metra Electric District’s (MED) line to the north. The proposed project would provide new transit service between Dyer, Indiana and Metra’s Millennium Station in Downtown Chicago, Illinois, a total distance of approximately 29 miles.

What study is currently underway?

The current study involves the environmental review process for the West Lake Corridor Project in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was prepared for the Project, with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as the Federal Lead Agency and NICTD as the Local Project Sponsor responsible for implementing the Project.

The EIS involves a greater level of analysis of the project, including potential design options, ridership, costs, social and environmental resources, and other considerations than have been conducted to date. This will allow for more informed decisions about such project elements as the transit mode, route alignment, station locations, and other infrastructure improvements. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was available for review through February 3, 2017 by the public and agencies. Following the public comment period, FTA and NICTD will prepare the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).The FEIS will include the selection of a Preferred Alternative.

NICTD would then develop an application to enter the FTA New Starts program to receive a project rating, which would be used as the basis for determining federal funding.

How can I comment on the DEIS?

Comments on the DEIS were collected during the formal comment period from December 16, 2016 through February 3, 2017. The DEIS Comment Period is now closed. Formal responses to comments to be posted as part of the Final EIS in fall 2017.

Comments may still be submitted and will be reviewed but not included in the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the project. Submit at comment here or by:

  • Email: project.email@nictdwestlake.com;
  • Comment line: 219-250-2920 (automated phone comment line);
  • Public Hearing comment cards or speaking to a court reporter;
  • Mail: NICTD, DEIS West Lake Corridor Project, 33 East U.S. Highway 12, Chesterton, IN 46304.

How much will the project cost and how will it be funded?

Current estimate for the project, with the addition of the Gateway Station in North Hammond, is $605M. Capital costs will be updated as the project and design are further refined.

When the proposed West Lake Corridor Project is fully advanced through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts process, it is anticipated that the New Starts program will provide approximately 50 percent of the Project’s capital cost. The non-New Starts costs will be covered by a combination of funding sources, including funding from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, the State of Indiana, and local communities.

What is Envision?

The West Lake Corridor Project has been registered with ISI’s Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Rating System. This system provides a holistic framework for evaluating and rating the community, environmental, and economic benefits of all types and sizes of infrastructure projects. Envision will provide sustainable best practices, as well as a structure to evaluate the project’s sustainability using a transparent system of metrics. The project team will use Envision to guide decisions, evaluate project benefits, set and meet sustainability goals, and ensure a transparent approach.

How does Title VI of the Civil Rights Act apply to the West Lake Corridor Project?

As a recipient of federal funding (e.g., federal fuel tax funds), the West Lake Corridor project must comply with several federal laws and regulations before it can be implemented, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities which receive federal financial assistance. NICTD is required to have an FTA-approved Title VI Program in place to receive federal funding. Capital funds to NICTD to provide a West Lake extension of commuter rail service require that NICTD provide service equitably along the corridor to “ensure that the level and quality of public transportation service is provided in a nondiscriminatory manner” (FTA Circular 4702.1B). The Environmental Impact Statement will include an evaluation of any potential disproportionate impacts to minority or low-income persons in the corridor, and show that the project would not exclude those protected by Title VI from the benefits of the new rail service. In addition, the project must include a Title VI analysis for the siting of the operations and maintenance facilities to ensure that the site-specific impacts are not disparately borne by those protected under Title VI.

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How will the acquisition of property be handled?

In order to construct, operate, and maintain the proposed West Lake Corridor Project, it will be necessary for NICTD to acquire private property. When property is identified to be acquired, other avoidance and minimization measures will have been considered. That property will have been determined to be the best location for the West Lake Corridor Project to serve the public. As a result, it may be necessary for NICTD to acquire properties for the West Lake Corridor Project.

Local, state, and federal regulations and laws govern the acquisition of private property for public use. These laws ensure that owners of property acquired for public projects are treated fairly and consistently. They are designed to encourage and expedite acquisition by agreements with property owners, to minimize litigation and relieve congestion in the courts, and to promote public confidence in land acquisition programs designed to benefit the public as a whole.

The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Polices Act of 1970 provides for uniform and equitable treatment of persons displaced from their homes, businesses, or farms by federal and federally-assisted programs, and establishes uniform and equitable land acquisition policies. Federal regulations implementing the Uniform Act (49 CFR Part 24) establish the process that must be followed.

When would properties be acquired?

NICTD will begin negotiations of properties in late 2017.

How will the project affect my property value?

Studies of commuter rail projects around the country have shown a positive impact on properties within 1/4- to 1-mile of a rail station. The relative increase in accessibility provided by the new transit investment is the primary factor in increasing property values.

What is the timing of this project?

The following are the key milestones and schedule for the environmental review process, as well as the overall project:

  • DEIS: The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was available for review and comment from December 16, 2016 through February 3, 2017.
  • FEIS/ROD: Following the formal comment period on the DEIS, a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) would be prepared by the FTA and NICTD to complete the environmental review process. The FTA would also issue a Record of Decision (ROD) that states the proposed action, environmental findings, and mitigation requirements. The combined FEIS/ROD would take about 6 months to complete, depending on the level of comments received on the DEIS.
  • Engineering and Construction: The environmental review process would then be followed by more detailed design, engineering, and construction from 2017 to 2022.
  • Project Completion: Service start-up for the NICTD West Lake Corridor Project is targeted for 2022.

This schedule reflects the standard process for NEPA review and FTA’s New Starts funding program, but dates are subject to change.

How do the public and agencies get involved?

The public and agencies are encouraged to comment on the Project and participate in the public involvement process. The project website has an online comment section to receive comments and questions, and various project documents are available online.

Public meetings and hearings have been held for the project. Visit the Resources page to review past meeting materials. Other individual stakeholder meetings and other meetings were also convened during the course of the study. Each previous meeting provided the opportunity to provide input on the project. Two rounds of public and agency review were conducted during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) phase and a final round of hearings were held scheduled in early 2017.

  • Scoping Period and Meeting(s): Scoping is the first step in the environmental review process under NEPA. Public and agency scoping meetings were held in fall 2014. Scoping is an early and open process for the public and agencies to provide input on the Project scope, or range of issues to be addressed and identify the significant issues related to the proposed action.
  • Public Workshop Meeting(s): The second round of public meetings was held in fall 2015. These workshop meetings served to update the public and agencies on the project and obtain input on project elements.
  • Circulation of DEIS and Hearings: The third round of input included the circulation of the DEIS from December 16, 2016 through February 3, 3017. The public and agencies had the opportunity to provide comments on the DEIS over a 45-day review period, during which time three public hearings were held to present the findings of the DEIS.

The public and agency engagement provide opportunities for input throughout the NEPA environmental review process. Visit the Contact page to provide ongoing input into the project.

Where can I read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement?

The DEIS can be reviewed on the Resources page. A list of public libraries that have copies of the DEIS can be found on the Resources page as well.

When were public hearings for the DEIS?

To present the results of the DEIS, and to solicit public comments, NICTD and FTA held three open house format public hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 17th, 2017, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Protsman Elementary School, 1121 Harrison Avenue, Dyer, Indiana 46311;
  • Wednesday, January 18th, 2017, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Washington Irving Elementary School, 4727 Pine Avenue, Hammond, Indiana 46327; and,
  • Thursday, January 19th, 2017, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Centennial Park, 1005 South Centennial Drive, Munster, Indiana, 46321.

To review materials presented during the hearings, visit the Resources page.

Project Elements

Where are stations being considered?

Three stations locations were considered in Hammond, one station in Munster, and one station near the border of Munster and Dyer. However, each of the Build Alternatives considered in the DEIS would include four stations. The combination and location of stations for each Build Alternative is described in more detail in the DEIS.

Where are maintenance and storage facility sites being considered?

Combined maintenance and storage facilities were considered in Hammond near 173rd Street and at Main Street near the Munster/Dyer border. A maintenance facility was also studied in north Hammond, which also included a corresponding storage (or layover) facility at Main Street near the Munster and Dyer town border.

What vehicle type is proposed to be used for the service?

Electric powered trains using overhead wires, the same as is used on the South Shore Line.

Will freight trains use the same tracks as the West Lake Corridor Project?

The new track and bridges proposed for the West Lake Corridor service have been designed exclusively for passenger rail service.

How will parking be handled at stations?

Each proposed station concept design includes a parking lot and a pick-up/drop-off area. NICTD will work with the host community in later phases of the project to determine how parking operations will be handled for each station. It is possible the operation and maintenance will be the responsibility of the host community. Under this scenario, it is possible that a parking fee would be assessed. Host communities will be offered the opportunity to be fully engaged in the design of parking and station facilities.

Will I be able to bring my bike on the train?

Yes, bikes will be permitted on the trains.

Effects

How will the construction of the project affect my business or me?

The construction of the project will have short term effects during construction. Construction activities can temporarily affect access to businesses or require detours to traffic. Some construction noise and other inconveniences can be expected adjacent to the alignment. Information regarding construction staging and short-term effects would be communicated with the public.

How will trails be affected?

The West Lake Corridor Project alternative alignments cross or are in close proximity to several trails including the Monon Trail, Erie Lackawanna Trail, and the Pennsy Greenway. The existing Monon and Erie Lackawanna Trails will be retained, but may be relocated within their existing corridors. The Pennsy Greenway is unfinished where the alternatives are proposed to cross it. However, the proposed design would allow space for future trail development.

What type of noise and vibration impacts will the project have?

The DEIS identified potential noise and vibration effects of the project to sensitive land uses; those effects were based on information that was available. During the FEIS phase, additional noise and vibration analyses will be performed to refine estimates of potential project-related noise and vibration effects to sensitive land uses. The major sources of noise from electric commuter trains are the wheel-rail interaction, and train horn or audible warning system use at public at-grade crossings. These will be evaluated for impacts and commitments to appropriate mitigation measures will be made.

Also during the FEIS, design development will take place and will be used to perform a refined vibration assessment. The major sources of vibration from commuter trains are at rail joints and switches. Train-induced ground-borne vibration that is detectable is considered an impact, and where vibration levels of that magnitude are projected to occur, commitments to appropriate mitigation measures will be made.











"Talent retention and attraction are critically important to the growth of the Northwest Indiana economy. Now is the time for us to start expanding access to amenities that commuter rail offers."

Heather Ennis
President/CEO, Northwest Indiana Forum