When the 18th Street Brewery introduces a new beer, George Rogge has watched as young people from Chicago get off the South Shore at the Miller stop and form a line to the brewery a block away.Must. Look. Into. This. I've already made use of the Shoreline Brewery in Michigan City. Time to do some interurban bar-hopping?
"This is what young people want," he said. "They want that vibe and they want the train."
On Wednesday night, Rogge and others heard about an ambitious plan to capitalize on the enthusiasms of young people like those getting off in Milller and maybe even convince them to make Miller their home.
Here's what the Ogden Dunes stop (next one east of Miller) looked like in December of 1972.
New platforms now there, expanded parking, more residential development. Now local officials want to spend some money in the hopes of making money.
[Regional development authority head Bill] Hanna laid out plans to compete for up to $42 million in Regional Cities Initiative money from the state with a proposal to get trains back and forth to Chicago faster and develop areas around existing South Shore train stations.There are some abandoned business properties near the tracks east of Gary through Miller and Ogden Dunes, and the Dune Park area gives way to another cluster of steel mills. But you can't have frequency and connectivity without trackage, and the line is already standing-room-only even without the interurban pub crawl.
Doing that could bring huge benefits to a region that already realizes a gain of about $430 million in personal income per year from the South Shore, according to a study done by consulting firm Policy Analytics, of Indianapolis.
At Wednesday night's public meeting, Policy Analytics President Bill Sheldrake showed a chart that illustrated communities like Hammond, Portage, Michigan City and others along the South Shore could see hundreds of millions of dollars in combined construction activity near train stations if those stations are improved and investments are made around them.
The core of the region's plan is to add 17 miles of track in areas between Gary and Michigan City to speed trains, prevent bottlenecks and increase capacity.It will be easier to add a second track on rights-of-way where the Insull era management anticipated a second track. Look at the pole lines in the Ogden Dunes picture above, and here we are approaching Gary's steel mills.
Constructing the second set of tracks would cost about $98 million, according to NICTD's 20-Year Strategic Business Plan. Half of the money could come from federal funds and half from local and/or state sources.
The second part of the plan is to invest in stations and the areas around them, a movement known as Transit Oriented Development. NICTD and the city of Gary are already moving ahead on seeking funds to improve the Miller train stop and surrounding area.
That's also in December 1972. I also took some pictures in the Dunes area in August, 1982, which is just before the new cars started arriving on the property.
A two car train approaches Beverly Shores, again there's room for a second track, and note the messenger wire for catenary that could be suspended above the track once the track was built. And perhaps it now will be built.