Supporters of the proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail line have approval from Federal and State agencies to take the first step in establishing the new rail line.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and members of the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) were joined by mayors and representatives from dozens of communities along the proposed route today at the Baker Street Train Station in Fort Wayne. They announced the recent engagement with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct an Alternatives Analysis and Public Input process that are required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) under federal law to begin the project.
“I’m encouraged by our collective efforts to develop innovative plans to make Fort Wayne a point of destination,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “The approval from the FRA allows us to begin the process of establishing passenger rail service through Fort Wayne, northern Indiana and northwest Ohio. By working together, we’re committed to making a meaningful difference by bringing more transportation options and economic development opportunities to our region.”
“This is the result of years of hard work and dogged determination on the part of many of us,” said NIPRA spokesperson and Fort Wayne City Councilman Geoff Paddock. “The return of passenger rail to Fort Wayne will be a huge boost for economic development in Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. It will add momentum to our booming downtown and help revitalize neighborhoods that surround the train station. It is gratifying that the FRA and INDOT see there is an untapped market for rail service in Fort Wayne. We thank them for working with us over the past few years to reach this moment.”
The Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus corridor would provide high-quality passenger rail connections to 100 Midwest cities through a regional rail network that offers safe, comfortable and reliable service with amenities such as Wi-Fi and food service. Initial plans are for trains to travel at a maximum speed of approximately 75 miles per hour and eventually travel at 110 miles per hour. In many communities along the route, scheduled stops would take place at existing historic train stations, such as the Baker Street Train Station, 221 W. Baker St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.
The Alternatives Analysis and Public Involvement Process is an investment of $350,000 and will examine the preliminary engineering, technical analysis, service planning and environmental impacts along the proposed route. The study, along with the public input process, will start in early January 2017 and is expected to be completed by late fall. The FRA will provide technical assistance throughout the process. The analysis is being paid for with funding from cities and businesses along the corridor. The FRA will be the lead agency on the process and will utilize information gained in this work. Once the Analysis is complete, engineering and design to upgrade the existing tracks can begin, pending funding. Supporters of passenger rail are optimistic limited service could begin by 2020.
A 2013 rail corridor feasibility study concluded that 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. The study also estimated that for every $1 of investment, $1.70 would be generated in economic return through job growth and increased property values. More information about the Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail can be found online at www.niprarail.org.