|Location||4485 Progress Drive|
South Bend, Indiana
|Platforms||1 island platform|
|Opened||November 20, 1992|
|Electrified||Yes (1500 V DC)|
|2015||185 (average weekday)|
South Bend Airport is a commuter train station on, and the eastern terminus of, the South Shore Line. Servicing South Bend International Airport, the station is 3 miles (4.8 km) northwest of Downtown South Bend, Indiana. In November 1992, the Airport station replaced the South Shore Line's former terminus at the South Bend Amtrak Station. The new station was constructed at a cost of $1.8 million and dedicated on November 20, 1992.
The station has a ticket office and a waiting room. Because the station is incorporated into the South Bend International Airport building, riders can also take advantage of its extensive lounging areas, shops and a meditation room.
Until November 27, 2009, most eastbound weekend South Shore Line trains terminated at this station. Since then, those trips have been cut in half, creating much larger gaps in service, to improve on-time performance for South Shore trains, which had suffered because the section of the line between Michigan City and South Bend is almost entirely single-tracked. Thus, if the westbound train got delayed, the eastbound train would get delayed even more because it will need to wait for the westbound train to clear the track.
Plans to move the South Shore Line station to the airport, creating an air, bus, and rail intermodal terminal, had dated back to the mid-1970s by the airport authority. In fact, plans to move the South Shore Line station there began to be formulated very shortly after the South Shore Line moved away from its stop in the city's downtown, which required street running, and into a newly constructed station.
There was talk in the 1980s, for the South Shore Line to stop at the Union Station in downtown South Bend, either instead of or in addition to stopping at the airport.
By 1989, the area surrounding the location of the South Bend's South Shore Line station that had been opened in the 1970s had come to be seen as an unsafe and isolated part of town. At this point, discussions had been ongoing about relocating the station to the station to the airport for over a decade, but had been stalled by disagreement over the route that the train should take to get to the airport. In 1989 the Venango River Corp., the parent company of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend, went bankrupt, and NICTD became the owner and operator of the South Shore Line. Venango's owner was said to have supported moving the station to the airport, but was also said to have championed having it take a route that would run through the Ardmore neighborhood of South Bend, approaching the airport from its west. In 1989, NICTD recommended moving the station to the airport, to provide what they believed would be a safer station at a more appealing location and with a large amount of available parking.
There was hope that moving the station to the airport would position passenger air service at the airport as an alternative for northwest Indiana residents (an area also served by the South Shore Line) to Chicago's airports Midway and O'Hare.
The station was built at the end of what started out as Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad's freight spur. The opening of a new station at the airport came on November 20, 1992. Approximately 200 people attended the opening ceremony. The new station cost $1.8 million, with NICTD paying approximately $1 million of the cost, and the rest being paid by the airport authority. The station was originally an open platform, but, as was planned from its initial construction, was later covered soon after with the construction of a new passenger terminal addition connected to the station. From its opening, the station has been accessible to those with disabilities.
At the time of the opening, sources for NICTD claimed that the station made the airport only the second airport in the United States to be served by a commuter railroad.
There is a possibility that the station may be relocated or replaced. The current route that carries the South Shore Line to its existing station is considered slow and circuitous.
Since 2006, plans had been made to explore relocating the station to the west end of the airport in order to potentially cut travel time along the South Shore Line by as much as 10 minutes by having trains approach the airport from the west with a shorter traveling distance and decreased number of at-grade crossings (as few as 7 grade crossings, as opposed to the 23 in the current east approach to the airport). Plans exist by St. Joseph County to construct a rail spur to this area of the airport exist with the aim of also fostering the creation of an intermodal rail-air freight hub at the airport. As of 2013, this had been originally estimated to cost $15 million.
The plans to relocate the station to the airport's west side faced local opposition from residents of the Ardmore neighborhood of South Bend, after it was proposed that the new tracks approaching a station there would travel through the neighborhood (in the area between Oak Road and Lexington Avenue) and displace as many as forty households there.
In 2017, South Bend's redevelopment commission voted to spend $25 million in tax increment financing funds to build a new station. This was part of a deal with St. Joseph County, in which the county would contribute $18 million to double-track the South Shore Line between Gary and Michigan City, while the city would contribute $25 million to pay for the relocation of the station to the airport's west side.
Locally preferred alternatives were presented to the original. One was to instead build a new station on parking lots at Westmoor Street west of Bendix Drive (along existing South Shore Line tracks), located on property owned by the Honeywell Corporation . Concerns about this location, however, included citizens feeling it was not a safe area. There was also discussion of extending the South Shore Line into the city's downtown, though some saw it as likely to be cost-prohibitive.
In September 2017, the South Bend Common Council unanimously passed a resolution urging that as many homes in Ardmore as possible be spared from the wrecking ball. Soon after, an engineering firm was contracted by the South Bend government to study alternatives to the existing plan
In December 2017, the South Bend Chocolate Company publicly discussed the possibility of building a station at the location of their planned new factory and tourist destination. They had selected a 90 acres (36 ha) site to the southwest of the U.S. 20 intersection of and St. Joseph Valley Parkways planned to build a new factory at, as well as two planned museums: the first a relocation of its existing chocolate museum (which was already receiving 50,000 visitors at its existing location) and the other being a planned "Indiana Dinosaur" Museum. In addition to this, the company was giving open consideration to building other attractions on the site, including a hotel, a winery, a restaurant, a bison farm, and hiking trails. It was argued that a station would enhance the venture's prospects at attracting tourists from Chicago and other areas in the region.
Beginning in August 2018, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg advocated to locate a new South Shore Line station in South Bend's downtown. Buttigieg expressed hope that a downtown South Shore Line station could be completed by 2025. Before advocating a downtown station, Buttigieg had previously been supportive of plans to relocate the station to the west side of the airport. NICTD president Mike Nolan expressed that the west side of the airport was more easily attainable in the short-term than a downtown station.
It is likely that, if constructed, a downtown South Bend station would entirely supplant the existing airport station. A downtown station would likely be located near Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium and the Union Station Technology Center. It could be adjacent to, if not integrated into, the existing South Bend Transpo South Street Station. When it was built in 1998, South Street Station had been constructed with its passenger facilities near abutting train tracks with an eye towards a future passenger rail component. A study commissioned in 2018 on the feasibility of a downtown station envisioned a downtown station as being located directly between the Union Station Technology and Four Winds Field at Coveleski Stadium, replacing a segment of South Street.
In 2018, Mayor Buttigieg ordered a study of five possible locations for a new station serving South Bend. The five locations being explored are the aforementioned west airport relocation, downtown station, and Honeywell Corporation sites, the site in the southwest quadrant of the U.S. 20 and U.S. 31 interchange that the South Bend Chocolate Factory tourist destination was planned for, and the existing South Bend Amtrak station. The study also explored the impact of retaining the existing station instead of constructing a new one. The report was published in April 2018.
The study found that, indeed, any relocation would decrease the travel time, with the fastest train to Millennium Station if the existing station is retained being 115 minutes, whilst all other station options would have the fastest train to Millennium station be between 82 and 84 minutes. The fastest train from Millennium Station if the existing station is retained will be 118 minutes, whilst for all other options it would be between 90 and 92 minutes.
The costs to build each new station option were estimated by the study. A new west airport station was found to cost $29.5 million, a downtown station was found to cost $102.3 million, the Honeywell Corporation site was found to cost $23.9 million, the chocolate factory site was found to cost $44.3 million, and the Amtrak station was found to cost $31.7 million.
The potential ten-year economic impact of each station option was studied. Retaining the existing station could still generate $39 million in economic impact. The new west airport station could generate $83.8 million, a downtown station could generate $415.3 million, the Honeywell Corporation site could generate either $171.5 million (if mixed-use development is built around it) or $132 million (if industrial development is built around it), the chocolate factory site could generate $144.4 million, and the Amtrak station could generate $139.7 million.
|Findings of study (forecasts of travel times and weekday ridership)|
|Station option||Travel times||Forcasted weekday ridership|
|To Millennium station||From Millennium station|
|Current airport station||115–160 minutes||118–155 minutes||—|
|Amtrak station||82–98 minutes||90–97 minutes||731|
|Chocolate factory||82–98 minutes||90–97 minutes||698|
|Downtown||84–100 minutes||92–99 minutes||735|
|Honeywell||82–98 minutes||90–97 minutes||729|
|West side of airport||84–100 minutes||92–99 minutes||727|
|Findings of study (costs)|
|Station option||Estimated base capital costs||Potential range of capital costs||Annual operations and management costs|
|Current airport station||—||—||—|
|Amtrak station||$31,727,000||$28.3–31.7 million||$577,430|
|Chocolate factory||$44,274,000||$40.7–44.3 million||$247,430|
|West side of airport||$29,480,000||$29.5 million||$247,430|
|Findings of study (Potential development around stations)|
|Station option||Acres available for development within half-mile||Potential new construction value within half-mile||Station area typology||Influence of transit on station area's development program||Potential 10-year economic impact||Potential 10-year fiscal impact|
|Property taxes||All taxes|
|Current airport station||63||$24,590,000||Industrial||Low||$39,000,000||$4,486,00||$7,210,000|
|Amtrak station||64||$23,250,000||Neighborhood transit-oriented development (TOD)||Moderate||$139,700,000||$2,556,000||$11,440,000|
|Chocolate factory||221||$40,230,000||Special destination||Moderate||$144,400,000||$5,921,000||$15,400,000|
|Honeywell (mixed-use redevelopment scheme)||86||$73,070,000||Neighborhood TOD||High||$171,500,000||$8,563,000||$19,410,100|
|Honeywell (industrial redevelopment scheme)||$47,320,000||Industrial||Moderate||$132,000,000||$5,640,000||$14,110,000|
|West side of airport||34||$17,820,000||Industrial||Low||$83,800,000||$3,251,000||$8,800,000|
|Results of findings (other criteria)|
|Station option||Space available for station, platform and parking||Factors complicating construction of station||Likely environmental action required|
|Current airport station||Good||—||—|
|Amtrak station||Good||Impacts to Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad (CSS) yard tracks and compatibility with the operations of CSS and Norfolk Southern (NS)||Environmental assessment|
|Chocolate factory||Good||Plan is predicated on private development plans; property acquisition required for approach tracks; CSS storage tracks||Environmental impact statement|
|Downtown||Adequate||Limited right of way for rail and station between Walnut Street and downtown South Bend; compatibility with the operations of NS and Canadian National (CN)||Environmental impact statement|
|Honeywell||Good||Properties are currently owned by the Honeywell Corporation; access is near Honeywell operations||Environmental assessment or categorical exclusion|
|West side of airport||Good||Property acquisition required for approach tracks||Environmental assessment|
By August 2018, both Buttigieg and NICTD president Mike Noland had publicly declared their belief that the Honeywell Corporation site, chocolate factory site, and Amtrak site were eliminated from further consideration.
In December 2018, an $181,000 engineering study was commissioned by the South Bend Redevelopment Commission to further examine the cost of a downtown station. This study was not made available to the public, until March 2021, when, after a public record request, it was released to the South Bend Tribune. The study showed that rerouting South Shore Line trains into the city's downtown would require numerous properties to be acquired, the city's Amtrak station to be relocated, two structures at a public housing complex to be demolished, and a soccer field at the Salvation Army Kroc Center to be demolished.
The study estimated that the cost to construct a downtown station would be $112 million, which is more than the $102 million than the previous study had estimated. The reason for this higher estimate was due to both inflation and challenges that the second study developed a greater understanding of. The study estimated that a downtown station would generate a $430 million economic impact and create 7,770 new jobs in a ten-year period. The study estimated that, when measured through new tax revenue, the return on capital cost would be 40%. However, when measured through economic impact, the return on capital cost was estimated at 336%.
In their 2019 capital plan, NICTD set aside $30 million for a relocation of the station and track realignment.
In early 2019, standing firm in their support for building a rail spur to the west side of the South Bend International Airport, St. Joseph County commissioned a $119,000 study to look at the construction of such a spur. The study would consider two routes running both through the neighborhood located between U.S. 31 and Mayflower Road. The first route to be considered was down Sundown Road, and the second was down Oak Road. Both routes were further west than the earlier-considered route, and were located between Oak Road and Butternut Road. The study was to look at both the potential of a freight-only spur and the potential of a spur shared by both freight and passenger trains. This study has not been released to the public.
The Federal Aviation Administration has not given permission for the routing of tracks and overhead catenary through a protected area near South Bend International Airport's runway. Such permission would be required for the proposed location on the west side of the airport.
A decision regarding the future of South Bend's South Shore Line station was originally anticipated to be made at some point in 2020. No such decision came. In March 2021, it was reported by the South Bend Tribune that community leaders had not yet reached a consensus as to where to build a new South Shore Line station.
While the 2018 estimate had been that a downtown station would cost $102 million, and the downtown feasibility study estimated that it would cost $112 million, some other cost projections are as high as nearly $200 million. Some St. Joseph County officials, such as St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners president Andy Kostielney, have come out in opposition to a downtown station due to its cost. The county has continued to officially prefer the west airport option. However, this could cost more than $50 million, and South Bend mayor James Mueller (Buttigieg's successor) has remained tepid towards contributing funding to a new station on the west side of the airport without first hearing a persuasive case that a freight complex there would have strong economic benefit. Mueller has also stated that he believes the cost projections of both the downtown and west airport options have increased to such a point that neither is realistic without financial support from federal or state sources. There has been speculation as to whether Buttigieg, now United States Secretary of Transportation, would be hesitant to make federal funding available to the project, out of fear of the appearance of favoritism to his hometown.
If the station remains at the airport, there are plans to run shuttle trains between Michigan City, Indiana and the station in order to encourage use of the airport. These trains will run in addition to the existing trains that run to/from Chicago.