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 is the timeline and process to complete the project?

The FTA’s process for Capital Investment Grant Projects is a structured process with phases:

Project Development: The FTA approved NICTD’s request to enter into the project development process in 2016. The project development process included an environmental review that included completing environmental studies, developing and reviewing alternatives, and identifying a locally preferred alternative. The locally preferred alternative was documented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which was made available for public review and comment in December 2016.

After reviewing public comments and identifying measures to mitigation impacts, the FTA issued a combined Final Environmental Impact Statement/Record of Decision in March 2018.

NICTD submitted Readiness Technical Plans and requested approval from the FTA to enter into the Engineering phase on September 4, 2018. The project will advance into the Engineering phase later in 2019.

Engineering and Construction: Project design will be completed with enough detail to allow the FTA to evaluate, rate, and approve the designs. If the FTA approves the project as designed and provides a favorable ratings decision, it will commit the funding and NICTD will request a Full Funding Grant Agreement. The timeline is dependent on federal and state funding approvals. Construction will begin after a Full Funding Grant Agreement is signed. The FTA will continue to provide oversight throughout the construction process. Revenue operations are anticipated to begin in 2024.

How much will the project cost?

Current estimates for the project are approximately $764.3 million. Capital costs will be updated as the design progresses through design and engineering.

How much will the project be funded?

The project has received a Medium-High Rating by the FTA. It is anticipated that the FTA’s New Starts program will provide up to 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 (RDA), the State of Indiana, and local communities.

Visit the FTA’s New Starts program and process to learn more.

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 FEIS includes 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.

What environmental reviews have been completed?

The DEIS was prepared for the Project, with the FTA as the Federal Lead Agency and NICTD as the Local Project Sponsor responsible for implementing the Project. The DEIS was completed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the US Department of Transportation’s (US DOT) Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act).

The DEIS process involved a detailed analysis of the Project, including potential design options, ridership, costs, social and environmental resources, and other considerations. The analyses provided for more informed decisions about project elements such as the transit mode, route alignment, station locations, and other infrastructure improvements. The DEIS was available for review from December 16, 2016 through February 3, 2017 by the public and agencies. The FTA issued a FEIS/ROD and Section 4(f) Evaluation in March 2018.

Where can I read the FEIS/ROD?

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

How will the acquisition of property be handled?

Visit the Real Estate page for more information on Acquisitions and Relocations.

How will the project affect my property value?

Property values are affected by many factors including a variety of market conditions. Research has shown that major transit investments such as commuter rail generally yield positive effects on property values. There is potential for an increase in property values in the areas surrounding proposed commuter rail stations, as commuter rail access can increase the convenience and desirability of nearby residential, commercial, and office properties. Commuter rail transit can also contribute to existing market forces that can increase the potential for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) or redevelopment. Development and redevelopment are managed by the local jurisdictions in the Project Area and are driven predominantly by regional and local economic conditions and land uses as defined in locally adopted comprehensive plans and zoning laws. Transit projects, including commuter rail lines, can advance the timing and increase the intensity of development, especially in areas near proposed stations, as allowed by local comprehensive plans. The direct impacts of a rail project on property values are difficult to assess conclusively because there are so many other factors that also affect property values. Continuing population growth and a strengthening of the local economy within the Project Area would also contribute to redevelopment and increased property values.

Studies on transit investments and property values include:

What outreach was conducted for this project?

Public meetings and hearings were conducted for the project to provide the opportunity to comment on the project. Two rounds of public and agency review were conducted during the DEIS phase in fall 2014 and fall 2015 and a final round of hearings were held in January 2017. 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.

I submitted a comment on the DEIS. Where do I find the response?

Responses to the DEIS are provided as part of the FEIS/ROD and can be found in Appendix H of the FEIS/ROD.

How can I comment?

Although the formal comment periods have closed, the public and agencies are encouraged to comment on the project. The Contact page has an online comment section to submit comments and questions, and various project documents and information are available on our Resources page. You may also email us.

Comments submitted after the formal comment periods are reviewed by NICTD and the project team and help provide an understanding of public and stakeholder ideas and concerns. These comments will continue to be considered at the projects progress through final design and construction.

How can I stay informed about Project updates?

NICTD relies heavily on email and the project website to communicate with those who have shown interest in the project. The best way to stay informed about upcoming public meetings and project updates is to provide us your email address using the comment form. You may also provide a mailing address for meeting notifications. Up-to-date information will be posted on this website.

Project Elements

Where are stations being considered?

Preliminary plans include two stations in Hammond (Hammond Gateway and South Hammond), one station in Munster at Ridge Road, and one station at Munster/Dyer Main Street. Station locations are shown on the Maps page.

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. Preliminary plans include a new combined facility in north Hammond to take advantage of shared facilities and central location.

Will stations be ADA-accessible?

In compliance with ADA standards, the design of the FEIS Preferred Alternative includes access for people with disabilities at all stations and platforms. For example, stations would include ADA parking and a public address system with both speakers and signs to convey information to people with disabilities in compliance with ADA requirements. All platforms would be accessible by ADA-compliant ramps and would include tactile warning strips at their edges. All platforms would be ADA-compliant for boarding and exiting the train. Pedestrian tunnels would also be designed to be compliant and would provide safe, accessible crossing of the tracks. Any new crosswalk ramps and grades for new sidewalks would comply with ADA regulations including pushbuttons and pedestrian signal heads.

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

Electric powered trains using overhead wires would be used for service, 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 stations be accessible by bike?

NICTD is designing stations to be as bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly as possible and would work with local communities to include them in the development of compatible infrastructure for accessing the stations. Installation of bicycle lanes on adjoining streets would be outside the Project’s scope, and it would be in the jurisdiction of the local communities to add bicycle lanes near the stations.

Each station would include station platforms, parking facilities, benches, trash receptacles, bicycle racks, and other site furnishings. Shelter buildings would be located at Munster/Dyer Main Street and Hammond Gateway Stations only.

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

Yes, bikes will be permitted on the trains.

How much will fares cost?

As part of the FTA Grant Process, NICTD is preparing a financial plan to evaluate different funding strategies and determine West Lake’s zoned fare structure.

Effects

For detailed responses to questions regarding environmental effects, visit Appendix H of the FEIS.

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.

Why was this alignment selected?

Through the environmental and preliminary design process, NICTD selected the FEIS Preferred Alternative because it best met the Project purpose and need; however, several design changes have been made since the publication of the DEIS to address public concerns and minimize impacts to the Project Area. NICTD will continue to work with community stakeholders to mitigate impacts to existing neighborhoods. The location of the FEIS Preferred Alternative is a result of many years of study to meet the needs of the Project while balancing impacts on the surrounding community.

The alternatives development process built on several prior studies and the West Lake Corridor DEIS. These studies examined a broad range of alignments, technologies, and transit modes in the Project Area. The concept of providing more-direct access to transit in central, southern, and western Lake County has been considered for more than 25 years in several regional transportation studies. In 2011, NICTD’s West Lake Corridor Study (NICTD 2011) concluded that a rail-based service between the Munster/Dyer area and Metra’s Millennium Station in downtown Chicago would best meet the public transportation needs of northwest Indiana.

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 trail network would remain after the Project is completed. However, some of the existing informal/unauthorized footpaths would be permanently closed. The FEIS Preferred Alternative would affect the Monon Trail, the Little Calumet River Trail, and the Pennsy Greenway during construction of the Project. The FEIS Preferred Alternative would overlay approximately 5,000 feet of the Monon Trail between Fisher Street in Munster and Douglas Street in Hammond. The current trail would be relocated adjacent to the Project track in several sections to accommodate the Project track and overhead contact system infrastructure. This would include relocating the Monon Trail pedestrian bridge over the Little Calumet River in Munster so that the Project can retain use of the original railroad track bed. The relocation would require a minor modification of the junction of the Monon Trail with the Little Calumet River Trail by moving it east. Chapter 7 of the FEIS discusses trail impacts in greater detail.

Will the Munster/Dyer Station parking lot connect to Margo Lane or Seminary Drive?

Margo Lane in the West Lakes subdivision and Seminary Drive in the Meadows subdivision would not connect to the parking lot. Pedestrian access will be provided for these subdivisions; however, there would be no vehicular connections and through traffic would not use those neighborhoods. Vehicular access to the parking lot would be from the station driveway at the Sheffield Avenue and Main Street intersection only. See Figure 3.6-3 in the FEIS for a station layout.

Will traffic congestion increase around the stations?

Intersection traffic analyses have been conducted for all proposed station accesses and adjacent intersections. Analyses identified less-than-desirable traffic at three intersections and the FEIS includes recommendations to maintain existing operations. The mitigation strategies for the intersections that would be affected near each station are described below.

  • Signalized intersections located within 200 feet of the railroad-highway grade crossings would be upgraded to include traffic signal interconnect with the rail warning system.
  • Existing traffic signal at Sheffield Avenue and Main Street in Munster and Dyer would be upgraded to accommodate the parking lot driveway as a fourth leg to the intersection.
  • The intersection of 173rd Street and Harrison Avenue would be striped to include an eastbound-to-southbound right-turn lane, which would help the intersection operate at an acceptable level of service. Sufficient roadway width exists to make this change without widening the intersection.
  • The roundabout being built by the City of Hammond at Holman Avenue and Chicago Street would be monitored for traffic operations, and coordination between the City of Hammond and NICTD would occur regarding cost sharing if an improvement to the roundabout is warranted.

Section 3.5 of the FEIS provides more detail regarding traffic.

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

Noise and vibration analyses were performed to identify potential project-related noise and vibration effects to sensitive land uses. Noise and vibration impacts would be mitigated through the implementation of Quiet Zones (to be completed by local jurisdictions), noise barriers, improvements at specific properties, ballast mats, and sleeper pads. Sections 5.2 and 5.3 of the FEIS discuss noise and vibration in detail.



"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