PORTER — The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District is considering a 5 percent fare increase for the South Shore Line that would help cover operating costs associated with the Positive Train Control safety system now being installed.
The NICTD board of trustees gave railroad administrators permission Friday to hold public hearings and perform other required actions to make the fare increase possible beginning July 1.
The increase — rounded to the nearest quarter — would raise the one-way fare to Chicago from stations in Hammond east to Michigan City by 50 cents. East of Michigan City, the increase would be 75 cents. Monthly ticket increases will range from $9.50 to $12.
Installation of the Positive Train Control project — a federally mandated system that allows tracking of trains and computer-controlled emergency braking when necessary — is being financed through a bond issue of about $100 million. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.
It's operation will require new employees, South Shore President Michael Noland said.
"We estimate right now 11 new positions in order to run the service," Noland said.
The railroad is planning five public hearings for April, at the major communities along the line. Noland said the board likely would be asked to act at its May 18 meeting.
E.C. station upgrade
The board on Friday also approved a $1.1 million contract with the engineering firm AECOM to design an expansion of the East Chicago station that will add a second headhouse between the station and platform.
The station — the South Shore's busiest — currently has one point of ingress and egress at its second-floor platform, creating significant congestion on trains approaching the station and on the platform during peak travel times.
The project also will include track changes that will allow a quicker approach to, and exit from, the stations for trains.
Construction likely will begin next year, Noland said. The project's estimated price is $7.6 million, with $2.7 million coming from a Federal Railroad Administration grant.
Also Friday, the board approved the expenditure of about $280,000 for 36,000 tie plates and $345,000 for 12 miles of rail to replace six miles of tracks east of Michigan City.
The upgrade is part of an ongoing project. "We're working our way toward South Bend," Noland said.