Video pitching South Shore reroute on TV today
By Dave Hawk, The News-Dispatch
John Vail, who has been pushing for relocation of the South Shore tracks from the 11th and 10th street corridor to the North End, has produced a video pitching the idea.
The video will be shown on Vail's cable television show "In The Know" at 2 and 7 p.m. today, Thursday, on local access cable television channel 99.
The film, named "The New North End," is co-produced by Fred Miller, and it also discusses Miller's ideas for new residential housing in the North End of Michigan City.
The two Michigan City men, both long active in civic affairs, have been promoting their ideas to revitalize the North End of Michigan City.
Vail's proposal would reroute the South Shore along an old Norfolk & Southern Railroad right of way north across U.S. 12 on an elevated track, then link with the Amtrak route and cross Trail Creek and Franklin Street on an elevated structure.
The South Shore and Amtrak would use a new transportation center with an elevated platform in an area at the north end of Wabash Street, between U.S. 12 and the NIPSCO generating station. South Shore trains could reconnect with the main South Shore line on the west edge of the city.
Vail said that while an elevated rail trestle across the North End could limit views of the Trail Creek harbor and Lake Michigan, it also could be designed in an aesthetically pleasing way, with designs cast into the concrete structure, including a "Welcome to Washington Park" message.
The new South Shore route would provide several advantages for South Shore and Amtrak service, Vail said. First, it would get South Shore trains off 11th and 10th streets, where they are unable to operate at full speed and lengthen the critical travel time between South Bend and Chicago. Second, with an elevated platform, riders could board or depart trains on both rail lines more quickly than using stairs, further cutting travel times.
Moreover, he said, a new transportation center would enhance the travel experience to and from Michigan City, which doesn't have an indoor transportation center. The former South Shore depot on 11th Street just east of Franklin Street remains closed and in need of renovation, and it is privately owned. Commuters wait outdoors at the 11th Street and Carroll Avenue train stops, while riders have modern facilities in such places as Dune Park, Gary and East Chicago. Similarly, Amtrak riders have only a small, open shelter next to the old Michigan Central depot, which serves as Swingbelly's Restaurant. A developer's plan is to replace the depot with a new hotel.
Vail points out the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates the South Shore commuter trains, has not resolved either the question of rerouting trains through Michigan City or where to build a new depot.
Vail said a proposal to renovate the old South Shore station on 11th Street is not feasible, in part because of a lack of parking.
Meanwhile, Miller's suggestion is to encourage residential living in the Franklin Square area, particularly in second-floor apartments. More residents in the neighborhood would spur demand for services, and that could lead to more retail and economic development in that area.
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