Officials: Double-track project advancing

Photo by Ben DavisJustice Anderson, a representative of NICTD, talks about the South Shore Line’s double-tracking project with a member of the community on Thursday evening during the Public Hearing Open House at Blue Chip Casino’s Stardust Event Center.

MICHIGAN CITY — On Thursday, the Northern Indiana Commutor Transportation District (NICTD) held an open house at Blue Chip Casino about the organization’s South Shore Line double-tracking project.

According to officials from the South Shore Line, the project is advancing.

“We’re nearly at the end of the National Environmental Policy Act process,” said President and CEO Michael Noland. “We have an environmental analysis document that talks about the impact associated and the alternatives study under the double-tracking project.”

Noland noted that the goal of this phase is to get a Finding of No Significant Impact (F.O.N.S.I). Noland also noted that his organization wants and encourages public comment as this process continues to play out.

“We publish the document, it is now available on our website and at public libraries,” he said, “we then come out to the community, answer questions, and encourage public comment in a public hearing process. So, we have a court reporter here tonight for people to give us their comments. We have comment cards, you can also go on our website and make a comment. We will take them all until Oct. 23.”

Noland said after Oct. 23, NICTD will go through the comments, and incorporate what they can into the project.

“We respond to them,” Noland said. “Those that we can incorporate we do, and those that we can’t we give an answer to. At the end of probably December, we hope to complete the National Environmental Policy Act and get what is called a F.O.N.S.I.”

Noland said the biggest hurdle now threatening the life of the double-tracking project is funding.

“We are hoping to get into the President’s budget for 2018,” Noland said.

Noland also mentioned that the public comment phase is a vital step for the project.

“It’s important to go through this. The public has to give us a chance to give us their comments,” Noland said. “On the West Lake project we did this, and we got a lot of great comments that we incorporated into the design.”

Noland also stated that the goal is to have the project completed by 2020. He said he understands a lot of the concerns about the project members of the communities affected have raised.

“There are a lot of people saying, ‘Get this done, this is a great project, I can’t wait for this to happen.’ Certainly we have talked to some of the property owners. If it was my property and someone said ‘I’m going to take this for the publics good,’ I wouldn’t be to happy, and I understand that. You should only do it if it’s the kind of project that is a 100 year game changer, that’s going to benefit multiple generations and have a huge positive benefit for the overall good. But that doesn’t mean that the individual is going to happy about it. Our commitment to them is treat them fairly.”

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