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Experts present new options for South Shore Line station

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The future of South Bend and the South Shore Line train station is now up for debate. Just how much is it worth to make getting to Chicago faster?

A long awaited study shows a new South Shore Line station could cut a half hour off the nearly 2 hour travel time to the Windy City but it won't be cheap.

AECOM, a group of experts on infrastructure and innovative solutions based in Chicago, met with the South Bend Common Council Thursday evening to present the new South Shore study results about alternative routes the station could sit.

It’s the first time the impacts of 5 total options for moving the South Shore Line station were presented and the first time we’ve seen the majority of neighbors from the Ardmore Trail neighborhood walk out of the County-City Building with a smile because of it.

“I’m feeling reassured that it’s going to take a path that we’ll ALL like. I’m happy today… I’m happy today, things have taken a good turn,” said Richard Collins,  a resident of the Admore neighborhood.

Engineers estimate moving the current station from the South Bend Airport to the old Union Station downtown would cost $102 million. Using the South Bend Chocolate Factory site off U.S. 20 would cost $44 million. The existing Amtrak Station, they estimate it will cost $31 million. Creating a new South Bend Airport station would be $29.5 million since it could mostly be major renovation and building at the Honeywell site off North Bendix Drive, $23.9 million, all things considered.

“Feasibility. Could we actually build those sites? Second thing we looked at was ‘what would it cost to build those sites?’ Then we looked at the operating/maintenance costs of each of those sites and then we turned it over to our economic development team,” said Earl Wacker, Vice President of railroads with AECOM Corporation.

Experts say the cheapest options, (the Honeywell site, Amtrak site and the current airport site), are that way because they are already near the current tracks, whereas the chocolate factory site and downtown site…

“They’re more money just because there is no rail service anywhere near them today so it would have to be a brand new alignment, quite a bit of environmental impacts, take a lot of time to study.” Earl Wacker

Other things considered in the study were economic development possibilities, land use, tax revenue, and impacts to the city. For now though, the common council says they will digest all the information and weigh the pros and cons of each option.

“We did a thorough examination of each of the sites from every aspect that we were asked to look at and provide enough data for the city to make a decision,” said Wacker.

The team predicts about 700 people will board the train everyday but don’t expect a decision on the new location anytime soon. The City of South Bend and the Common Council say there is still plenty of discussion to come.

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