It’s been a while since I posted on the possibility of South Shore Expansion – mainly because it ended up being a nonissue (Valparaiso didn’t want any commuter trains coming to them to begin with, and in the end it seemed that the expansion was looked at out of duty instead of actual desire and forward planning), my enthusiasm for the project nonwithstanding. However, there are plans afoot and it looks like they’re serious for once.
To start with, though, we’re talking about a smaller footprint – nearly a Stub line in many ways, as the plan only goes so far as the Dyer-Munster city limits. I would have thought they would have wanted to at least go as far as to the Dyer Amtrak station and turn that into a true stop instead of what has to be seen now as a glorified Amshack (it is nice, but since there’s no ticketing and the station is used but twice a day…), but it appears that future plans for the West Lake line involve a station closer to US 30 in Dyer itself, and a station at the present Dyer Amtrak station would probably cause problems – especially once commuter-based development starts near the station, wherever it may be placed. Maybe they could move the Dyer Amtrak station where the South Shore Station is when the South Shore is finally extended south from the Dyer-Munster border.
How serious is this? Well, they’ve started drilling holes along the bicycle trail in Munster, checking out the soil conditions for the expansion. Now this shouldn’t be an issue simply because The Monon Line was laid and used between 1880 and 1980, however the land was originally a swamp and a flood plain before a system of ditches drained the area and turned Munster into the Suburban Paradise that they prides themselves as being. While one could make the case that the land along the old rail line should be stable, it doesn’t hurt to check,as there have been lines built over old swampland that have ended up doing some mean leaning over the years.
There’s also plans for development towards the north end of the new line. It’s contingent on the Hammond Alternative being built (look towards the bottom of the PDF for the details), but if both the Hammond Alternative and the development get built it would make for one hell of a revival in the central part of Hammond and probably extend things south towards the downtown area (where there’s a station planned, may I add).
Finally: It looks like there’s finally some activity going on with expanding the South Shore Line. I wish they could have maybe done something along these lines back in the mid-nineties, when the track was still halfway decent, there was no rail trail bridge across the Little Calumet River and the EJ&E still independent and quiet enough to cross at grade (I’m sure the added cost of building a bridge across the now-extremely-busy branch of Canadian National helped convince them to end the new rail line at the Munster/Dyer city limits, had the line already extended to Lowell as has long been planned they could have gotten CN to help them build a bridge over their new property), but even if I die before the line gets fully built it will be worth it.