In 2010 they said it would be done spring of 2011.
January of this year it was supposed to be done by mid-summer.
Friday, directors of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District
learned construction of a time-saving $19 million bypass track for the South
Shore commuter railroad should be in service in December.
Paul Bobby of project manager STV Incorporated requested, and the NICTD
board approved, an additional $325,000 for the firm to extend its
construction-management contract through spring of 2012 when all work is to
be completed at the Kensington interlocking in Illinois.
Bobby explained how having to coordinate design and construction with the
South Shore, Metra and Canadian National railroads, who all share tracks at
the 115th Street interlocking, has led to delays. “If one (thing) slips,
everything slides with it.”
NICTD general manager Gerald Hanas said about 180 trains use the Kensington
crossover on an average day so shutting down tracks and busing thousands of
passengers isn’t feasible.
Because of the complexity involved, Bobby added, if plans are changed ---
like lightning forcing a work stoppage --- it can take two to three weeks to
get permission to schedule the same work again.
The Kensington project, in the planning stages for a decade, involves laying
new track as well as installing new signals, signal houses and overhead
catenary that powers the South Shore trains on their way to Millennium
Station at Randolph Street in downtown Chicago.
Heat sparks AC
Hanas apologized to passengers for air-conditioning failures on some train
cars during the unseasonably hot July, adding that compressor failures were
within normal ranges even though the AC system is reaching its design limits
on extremely hot days.
Hanas said when center doors open at high-level boarding platforms, cool air
escapes and it’s difficult for the system to recover. “The heat load that
comes in is huge (and the air conditioning) won’t ramp the temperature down
to 74 degrees in minutes.”
Through June of this year total South Shore ridership of 1,775,020 is down
2.6 percent over 2010, said NICTD marketing director John Parsons.
Average off-peak ridership this year is down 8.9 percent but average
weekend/holiday rebounded up by 5.3 percent. 2011 revenue to-date of $8.7
million increased by 1.5 percent on the heels of a fare increase this year.
Parsons outlined new marketing efforts including the
www.mysouthshoreline.com website that offers promotions and suggestions how
to take the train into Chicago for off-peak leisure activities.
Also Friday, Hanas said a public hearing is planned in September on seven
possible realignment options that would move the South Shore tracks off
downtown Michigan City streets and replace the smaller 11th Street and
Carroll Avenue stations with a new, modern one with expanded parking.
Consultants currently are reviewing the options in cooperation with NICTD
and the city, who jointly funded the local match for a federal grant to pay
for the study.
Town of Pines resident Anne Prokuski urged NICTD to have a large cottonwood
tree located on its adjoining right-of-way taken down before it falls on her
house. “I’m in constant stress about it,” she told NICTD directors.
Addressing board members, Pines Town Council member Cathi Murray said, “I
think you need to realize there’s a responsibility here to protect (Prokuski)
and her family.”
Prokuski said a few years ago a tree on South Shore property fell into her
yard necessitating she be responsible for having it removed, and she doesn’t
want to go through that again. Board member Fran DuPey, a Lake County
Commissioner, said NICTD failed Prokuski by not paying for the clean-up then
and the railroad should take the cottonwood down now.
St. Joseph County Commissioner Robert Kovach’s motion to have an arborist
determine the health of the tree passed, as did a second motion by Porter
County Commissioner John Evans to have the tree cut down if the arborist so
The NICTD board doesn’t meet again until Sept. 30. Absent Friday were Jim
Biggs of Porter County, Christine Cid of Lake County and Mark Yagelski of