Regional Rail Network
Northwest Indiana possesses a dense, heavily traveled rail network. 700 miles of active rail crosses through the region, 557 of which are active mainline. Rail carries 16% of the freight moved in the region.
Three of the nation’s Class I freight railroads pass through Northwest Indiana (CSX, NS, CN). The CSX and NS mainlines, in particular, are two of the most heavily traveled rail lines in the country, each averaging more than 100 million gross ton miles. The heaviest freight rail activity occurs on the CSXT Garrett subdivision (which runs through the NIRPC region, from Willow Creek to the La Porte–St. Joseph county line), the NS Chicago Line subdivision (which runs from Chicago, along Lake Michigan, through La Porte, and to the La Porte-St. Joseph County line), the CN South Bend subdivision (which runs from the Lake-Porter county line, through Valparaiso, and to the La Porte-St. Joseph county line), and the NS Chicago District subdivision (which runs from Chicago, through Hammond and Valparaiso, to the La Porte-Starke county line).
In addition to the Class I rail lines, a network of short line and regional railroads serve local industry and provide short haul, switching and terminal operations: the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend Railroad (South Shore Freight), Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, Chicago, Fort Wayne, and Eastern Railroad, Chesapeake & Indiana Railroad. Although these railroads carry a fraction of the tonnage of the Class I railroads, the nature of their business necessitates slow movement in and out of yards, and lengthy blockages of at-grade crossings throughout Northwest Indiana.
Along with freight trains, both interstate and commuter passenger trains operate throughout Northwest Indiana. Commuter service is provided by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, which operates on an electrified commuter rail line between Chicago’s Millennium Station and the City of South Bend. NICTD runs 20 westbound and 21 eastbound trains each weekday, between South Bend and Millennium Station (though not all trains run the full length of the system), and 10 westbound and 11 eastbound trains on weekends and holidays. Amtrak also operates seven routes that pass through Northwest Indiana. In 2010, $71.4 million in ARRA high speed rail funds were awarded to Amtrak and NS for improvement projects on the Indiana Gateway Corridor, between Porter Junction and the Indiana/Illinois line. Seven of the projects are on NS’ Chicago line, and one is on Amtrak’s Michigan line.