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NW Indiana's clogged railroads to get $71M upgrade

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Northwestern Indiana's congested railroad corridors will see some upgrades with $71 million in federal money to help speed the flow of passenger and freight trains and perhaps help progress on a Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed Amtrak rail route.

The U.S. Department of Transportation funding for Indiana Gateway project will pay for work along the Norfolk Southern Railroad's Chicago Line and the Amtrak Michigan Line. The Indiana Department of Transportation said it will use the money for work that includes track relocations, high-speed crossovers and upgrading signal systems.

Norfolk Southern and state officials have agreed for work on eight rail projects in the area, said John Swanson, executive director at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

"This will be a major project in Indiana to facilitate high-speed rail through northwest Indiana," Swanson told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/PeI9iM ).

The Indiana Gateway is one of the last major projects approved for the Chicago-to-Detroit high-speed rail route, which has won almost $400 million in federal stimulus funding.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said the area's economic health relies heavily on its rail system.

"The Indiana Gateway project will create jobs in the short-term, improve the transport of passengers and cargo in the midterm, and build a foundation for a thriving rail infrastructure and a sound regional economy in the long-term," Visclosky said.

The Indiana Gateway project will include the construction of a siding at the town of Porter, identified by the state transportation department as one of the most congestion-prone rail junctions in the county. Every day 14 Amtrak trains and 87 freight trains merge there in order to proceed into Chicago or eastward toward Michigan or Ohio.

It is estimated the Indiana Gateway project, along with other improvements in Illinois and Michigan, will shave 30 minutes off a Chicago-to-Detroit Amtrak ride. Trains will operate at speeds of 110 mph along much of the Michigan portion of the route.

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