$1B passenger rail project gains momentum

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and eight other mayors signed an agreement Wednesday afternoon showing their support for the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail corridor.  They hope within the next week to get cooperation so they can begin the development of the passenger rail project.   The price tag for the project:  up to $1 billion.

We first told you about the project in an in-depth Focus 15 report in late July.

Indiana cities include Fort Wayne, Warsaw, Plymouth, Valparaiso, and Gary.  The Ohio cities:  Columbus, Marysville, Kenton, and Lima.  Officials say Fort Wayne’s stop would be at the Baker Street train station downtown.  Other cities like Gary, Indiana would have the rail stop near the airport.

“This is a great opportunity for them to get from the Gary Airport to downtown Chicago in less than 30 minutes,” Mayor of Gary, Ind. Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

The agreement calls for the parties “…to systematically and incrementally develop the higher speed rail (“HSR”) intercity system in cooperation with existing freight rail operators and owners of right‐of-­way along a corridor from Chicago to Columbus through northern Indiana hereafter known as the Northern Indiana/Ohio High Speed Rail Initiative.”

According to Fort Wayne city officials, the agreement also states the cities will work together to secure funding for the project.  They are required by the federal government to do an Environmental Impact Study (EIS).  The EIS would examine the preliminary engineering, technical analysis, service planning and environmental impacts along several different routes in order to determine the preferred route for locating the rail lines. Once complete, the EIS would be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. This study could begin in late 2014 and would take 18 months to complete.

“This is a big step forward in the effort to bring passenger rail back to our community,” said Mayor Henry. “The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor will be good for citizens throughout northern Indiana and central Ohio. It will increase transportation alternatives and help boost economic development and tourism.”

City leaders say the project would create 26,000 jobs over 30 years, pay for itself after a couple of years, and potentially become a big moneymaker.

The rail corridor feasibility study
The study was completed in 2013 by Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. (TEMS) for the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association. 

  • Approximately 2.1 million riders would use the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus route in 2020, with that number growing to more than three million in 2040.
  • For every $1 of investment, $1.70 would be generated in economic return through job growth and increased property values.

The 300-mile-long passenger rail corridor would operate up to 12 trains daily, each direction, along the route. Express services would link downtown Chicago to Columbus in less than four hours.

Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association has helped the project gain momentum.  To learn more about NIPRA, click here.

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